When I was in college, I worked three jobs while jugging 18 units at San Diego State University and doing my best to maintain a long distance relationship. Man, those times were tough. I frequently remember regular sleepless nights prior to exams or my 5:00 a.m. shifts at Thornton Hospital in La Jolla. Life was hard, but I made it through.
And you know what? I'm proud to say I made it through my younger years without taking on even a single penny of debt. Paying my way through college was one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences I've had to date. I wish more young people would follow this route. Actually, come to think of it, I wish more businesses would follow this route, too, in order to keep themselves out of corporate hot water.
Businesses that run on low or nonexistent levels of debt, in my opinion, may have an upper hand compared to debt-laden competitors. Here are five rather well-known stocks I like due to their ability to keep debt manageable:
1. American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. (AEO) is an apparel and accessories retailer that caters to younger, value-oriented shoppers. The company operates more than 1,000 retail stores in the United States and Canada. AEO has a market cap of $2.75 billion, a forward P/E just over 13, a PEG ratio of 1.5 and brings in over $3 billion in revenue each year. The company has $481 million in cash on hand and no debt.
2. Apple Inc. (AAPL) is a company which needs little introduction. With an admirable market cap of $427 billion, a forward P/E ratio under 10, a PEG ratio of 0.56 and $128 billion in annual revenue, the case could be made that AAPL is looking cheap. Better yet, the company has no debt and has over $32 of cash per share on hand.
3. Guess?, Inc. (GES) designs and markets apparel and accessories for men, women and children. GES has a market cap of $2.95 billion, a forward P/E ratio just below 10, a PEG ratio of 0.90 and $2.7 billion in annual revenue. The company has over $430 million in cash on hand and a very manageable $14.5 million in debt.
4. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) is a specialty retailer that sells casual sportswear apparel. The company operates 1,069 stores in North America, Europe and Japan. ANF is currently trading just above its 52 week low with a market cap of $3.54 billion, a forward P/E ratio under 10, a PEG ratio of 0.73 and $4 billion in annual revenue. The company has $488 million in cash on hand and an incredibly manageable $26 million in debt.
5. Intel Corporation (INTC) is a semiconductor chip producer that designs and manufacturers communication components. The company has a $136 billion market cap, a forward P/E just over 10, a PEG ratio of 0.95 and $54 billion in annual revenue. INTC has nearly $15 billion in cash on hand with only $7.3 billion of debt.
Luckily for me, the days of working three jobs while going to school full time are a distant memory. However, I'll never forget the valuable lesson I learned about controlling debt and maintaining a positive cash flow. Today, when evaluating stocks, I always take a look at debt and assets prior to investing my hard earned cash.
Disclosure: I am long AEO, AAPL.