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5 Tech Sector Bargains to Buy in 2013 - views
BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- Everybody loves a bargain. But when it comes to stocks, investors have been a little less willing to snatch up undervalued names for the last few months.
It's especially true in the technology sector, a group that got hammered in 2012 while other stocks were rallying hard. While the S&P 500 ended 2012 up more than 13%, the tech sector finished its year just 4.9% higher. And not all names have even fared that well -- in fact, some surprising tech names are looking like bargains now that the calendar has flipped over to 2013.
That's presenting a big opportunity for investors willing to put on their buying hats this month.
With technicals for the tech sector starting to show overall strength again, this bargain bin is comprised of the other half of the coin -- fundamental valuation metrics that come in cheaper than their sector averages. In particular, we're focusing on firms who are earning more profits, bigger cash flows, and sport better book values than the tech sector average.
Here's everything you need to know about five tech sector bargains worth buying in 2013.
It may seem surprising that Yahoo! (YHOO) makes our list of bargain tech stocks -- after all, the search giant has made a series of conspicuous missteps in the last year, from a resume-padding CEO ouster to wrestling with activist shareholders. But that drama is exactly what's helped to give Yahoo! a discounted valuation right now.
Yahoo! faces extremely stiff competition in grabbing web-browsing eyes online. With rivals like Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), and Facebook (FB) each threatening a part of Yahoo!'s strategy, many investors have been ignoring the once dominant search site. But that's a big mistake. Yahoo! is still one of the biggest destinations on the internet, and its brand looks more than capable of returning value to shareholders in 2013 with new management and plenty of cash in its coffers. The firm's snagging of ex-Googler Marissa Mayer as CEO should be seen as a major coup for the Sunnyvale, California-based firm -- Mayer was a key part of Google's success, and she has the experience to bring a more focused approach to Yahoo as well.
Financially, Yahoo! is in stellar shape, with more than $8.4 billion in cash on its balance sheet, and a pretty insignificant $38 million in debt. That huge cash load accounts for around 35% of Yahoo!'s market capitalization right now, providing a material discount to shares. In one of her first acts as CEO, Mayer announced that the firm wouldn't be pursuing a big acquisition strategy, preferring instead to make smaller acquisitions and return cash to shareholders. That's a relief given the horrific track record tech firms have had with acquisitions in the last several years.
Investors may not be excited about Yahoo! right now, but the search firm has some big value at its current share price. That's reason enough to warrant a closer look…
Oracle (ORCL) is another name that may seem like a surprising bargain -- the $167 billion enterprise hardware and software firm is one of the biggest names in the business. But as I write, Oracle trades for a 25% price-to-earnings discount to the rest of the tech sector -- and around the same discount on price-to-cash flows. So don't let Oracle's size fool you, this stock looks cheap nevertheless…
Oracle's biggest business is application software -- the firm sells mission-critical software packages to firms that need database tools for everything from customer resource management to supply chain analysis. Because Oracle's big-ticket software is integrated so tightly into firms' operations, customers have extremely high switching costs and competitors have big barriers to entry. That's a very good thing for Oracle's economic moat.
Not surprisingly, ORCL has faultless financials as well. The firm boasts around $14 billion in net cash, a reserve of liquidity that should give Oracle nearly a 10% premium to the rest of the tech sector, not a discount. With a huge share of the coveted enterprise software market and ample cash on hand, this bargain-priced firm is a good option for tech sector exposure in 2013.
Investors just don't get Garmin (GRMN). There's no other way to explain the huge 46% discount Garmin's P/E ratio trades at compared to the rest of the tech sector -- or the 30% discount on the firm's cash flows. For the past several years, Garmin has been a perennially-shorted stock. Now, though, as short sellers start to fall off shares of GRMN, the firm could be primed to make higher ground.
Garmin is the biggest GPS and navigation system maker in the world. The firm's products range from ubiquitous in-car devices to advanced electronic flight deck systems used in the latest business jets. That wide range gives Garmin some key advantages that the competition can't match. Because Garmin spends considerable R&D dollars on its bigger ticket aviation and marine navigation systems, it's able to develop exciting technologies that can flow down to its lowest-common-denominator automotive GPS business at minimal cost. So, since Garmin's high-end operations pay for themselves, it can squeeze bigger margins out of its efforts.
That dramatically lessens the risks surrounding the competition in the automotive GPS space. Garmin's embrace of the fitness and sports markets are offering some new big opportunities in 2013: the firm's line of GPS-equipped golf watches was a huge seller for the holiday season. As Garmin leverages its tech across more markets than peers can, it should continue to dominate its market. Ample cash and a 4.3% dividend yield don't hurt either.
It's been a rough year for Intel (INTC) -- in the last 12 months, shares of the chipmaking giant have slid around 12%, giving Intel underperformance that's closing in on 25% versus the S&P 500. That poor price performance has given Intel a bargain pricetag in January: right now, the firm trades for a paltry P/E of 8.9, a nearly 60% discount to the rest of the tech sector. The firm's cash flows are even cheaper for its share price right now -- that metric sits at a 70% discount to the tech sector.
Intel is the dominant microchip maker in the world. The firm takes home around 80% of the global microprocessor business, manufacturing the “brains” behind the vast majority of computers coming off of assembly lines. But despite that dominance, there's still considerable room for growth, especially given the ballooning demand for chips that power mobile devices. In an industry where commoditized computers are driving PC margins lower and lower, Intel's ability to maintain a stellar moat is commendable. And it should continue to be lucrative in 2013.
Like the other names on this list, Intel boasts a fortress balance sheet, with more than $10 billion in net cash and investments. The firm has been using all of that cash to reward shareholders, maintaining what's now a hefty 4.21% dividend yield. The combination of a P/E ratio under 10, a near monopoly share of its market, and a huge cash dividend should be a signal that it makes sense to own Intel here.
Seagate Technology (STX), on the other hand, has had a pretty phenomenal year. Shares of the hard drive firm have doubled in the last 12 months, outperforming nearly any other large-cap name over the same time period. But despite that huge rally, fundamentals have grown even faster for STX, and shares of the $11 billion firm still trade at a substantial discount to the rest of the tech sector.
Seagate is the biggest manufacturer of enterprise hard drives, the storage medium that powers the world's servers and IT departments. With the popularity of cloud computing, that server storage has become extremely in-demand, and tailwinds are likely to persist for the foreseeable future as storage needs outpace capacity. Because most of Seagate's sales come from equipment manufacturers rather than end-users, the firm should continue to benefit as storage needs grow, even if the equipment manufacturers themselves struggle to find margins.
While the solid-state drives used in mobile devices do pose some threat to Seagate, we're a long way away from seeing SSDs in standard use on the enterprise side of the market. For that reason, Seagate's dominant position in the enterprise storage market should continue to come with hefty double-digit margins.
To see these value-centric names in action, check out the Tech Sector Bargains for 2013 portfolio on Stockpickr.
At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.
Jonas Elmerraji, CMT, is a senior market analyst at Agora Financial in Baltimore and a contributor to TheStreet. Before that, he managed a portfolio of stocks for an investment advisory returned 15% in 2008. He has been featured in Forbes , Investor's Business Daily, and on CNBC.com. Jonas holds a degree in financial economics from UMBC and the Chartered Market Technician designation.