If you have access to a stock screener and have filtered for stocks trading at dirt-cheap valuations, chances are that Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF), Rowan Companies (NYSE: RDC), and The Greenbrier Companies (NYSE: GBX) have popped up. Based solely on stock valuations, they are some of the cheapest stocks on the market today.
Just because valuation metrics say that a stock is cheap doesn’t necessarily mean that you are getting a good deal on shares, though. So instead of merely looking at the results of a valuation screening, let’s dive a little deeper into why these three stocks are selling for such low prices and whether they are worth adding to a portfolio.
Cheap, but probably for a reason
By just about every valuation metric out there, shares of Abercrombie & Fitch seem so cheap that deep value investors looking at stock screeners are going to at least take a look at the company to see if there is any value left in this stock. More likely than not, however, there isn’t much juice left to squeeze out of it.
Being in the retail business is tough enough these days. All retailers are managing the consolidation of their brick-and-mortar footprint to cut costs while trying to make it in the e-commerce game. Only a select few have been able to get traction with this, and so far, Abercrombie has not been one of the ones to crack this code. If this were the only problem facing Abercrombie & Fitch, it might be worth a look because who knows what will come of this retail shakeup. Unfortunately, the company has some serious issues with its brands that make the situation that much worse.
A&F’s features brands — Abercrombie and Hollister — are geared toward a younger customer, where fashion trends can change fast. While comps at Hollister have remained relatively flat, comps at its namesake brand declined 11% in 2016. This puts it in a real conundrum. It needs to reinvest in the business to build out its e-commerce platform as well as revamp its A&F stores, but cash flows are drying up fast.
Things are going to get much worse before they get better at Abercrombie & Fitch, and it’s entirely possible that they won’t get much better from here. So while this stock does appear inexpensive, it’s probably best to avoid it until we see some tangible improvement in its business.
Tough market today, but has some things going for it
Offshore drilling is an incredibly tough business right now. Producers are electing to spend their capital budgets on cheaper sources of oil and gas such as shale, and rigs continue to roll off legacy contracts without new ones in place. Over the next year or so, Rowan Companies looks like it will get hit hard by this legacy contract issue as 12 of its 19 active rigs will come off contract in the next 12 months. If Rowan can’t find new work for these new rigs, then any form of profitability is going to sink faster than a boat made of screen doors. The market is pricing in this reality, as shares currently trade at a price to tangible book value of 0.29 times. That kind of valuation suggests that its assets are worth only pennies on the dollar.
There isn’t much of a chance that Rowan’s prospects will turn around quickly, and the company could be headed for an even rougher patch than the one it’s in today. That said, it does have some things going for it that suggest it will be able to work through this tough time and possibly reemerge as a much stronger company. One thing working in its favor is its balance sheet. Rowan has close to $1.2 billion in cash on hand, which is more than enough to cover any short-term obligations and fully pay off any debts due before 2024.
On the operations side, Rowan recently inked a joint venture deal with Saudi Aramco. The deal involves combining some of Rowan’s fleet with a few of Saudi Aramco’s jack-up fleet into a separate, co-owned company that will exclusively drill for Aramco. Rowan has the option to contribute up to 10 rigs to this fleet and ensure long-term cash flows from those rigs. Also, part of the deal includes an option to build an additional 20 rigs for Aramco to exclusively use up until 2040.
If Rowan can see itself through this tough time, it will have a deep-pocketed customer that will ensure more than half of its jack-up fleet will be working all the time. That should make marketing its remaining assets that much easier. If it can pull this off, then getting in at today’s stock price looks like a steal.
Too much negativity priced in?
There are a lot of people on Wall Street betting heavily against Greenbrier Companies right now. In fact, it is one of the most heavily shorted companies on the New York Stock Exchange, with close to one-third of its shares sold short. With that much negativity baked into the stock price, it’s not surprising to find out that shares of Greenbrier trade at an enterprise value-to-EBITDA ratio of just 3.9 times. That’s the kind of valuation you assign a company that’s about to crash.
The case against Greenbrier centers on the idea that demand for railcars will be quite tepid over the next several years. In spite of the recent surge in coal shipments, longer-term trends suggest that coal deliveries will continue to dwindle over time. Also, the need for tank cars to move crude oil have become less necessary as pipelines get built out. For Greenbrier, tank cars and hopper cars required to move these two products comprise more than two-thirds of its current order backlog.
This may be the case, but some longer-term trends suggest this thesis is a little overhyped. One counterargument is that Greenbrier is diversifying its offerings by pushing to do more aftermarket parts and railcar leasing and expanding international operations through a lucrative deal that could add $1 billion to its current backlog.
Over the past couple of years, Greenbrier has dramatically improved its financial performance thanks to cost-cutting, debt repayments, and a focus on high returns on invested capital. As a result, it is a much stronger company that can better handle the ups and downs of this cyclical market. With shares trading as cheaply as they are today, Greenbrier is certainly worth a deeper dive.
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