It goes without saying that in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, consumers aren’t buying cars, and that has created some huge headwinds for U.S. auto giant Ford (NYSE:F), with F stock down more than 30% year-to-date.
To be sure, as the global economy has gradually reopened over the past few weeks, Ford stock has rallied in a big way. At one point in early June, shares were up 90% from their March lows.
But Ford stock has given up a big chunk of those gains, falling more than 15% recently as Wall Street has become increasingly concerned about a potential “second wave” of Covid-19.
What now? Sell Ford stock because the second wave of coronavirus is going to kill the rally? Or buy the dip because this second wave won’t do much damage?
I think the latter. Buy F stock on coronavirus weakness. Here’s three big reasons why:
- The Covid-19 pandemic is a near-term headwind, the worst of the economic impact from that crisis is in the rear-view mirror. Auto markets in America, Asia and Europe are already rebounding with vigor.
- Ford is on the cusp of massively electrifying its vehicle portfolio over the next few years. This mass electrification will energize demand trends, and help Ford stabilize its declining market share.
- All things considered, F stock is dramatically undervalued around $6. Contrarian buyers at current levels will be handsomely rewarded.
The Worst of Covid-19 Is Past Us
Make no mistake about it. A second wave of Covid-19 is coming.
But this second wave won’t kill the global economic recovery, the global auto market rebound or the rally in F stock.
The science surrounding Covid-19 has dramatically changed since February, when we didn’t know much about it and naturally (out of an abundance caution) assumed the worst.
But the worst is not the reality. The reality is that, for the majority of the population, the virus is notably less dangerous and lethal than the flu, with the CDC’s current best estimate of the total fatality rate for Covid-19 at 0.03% for people under the age of 50. Meanwhile, the death rate for individuals in the 50 to 64 year-old crowd is roughly equivalent to that of the flu at 0.1%.
Sure, the death rate of the virus for the 65+ crowd is much higher, at around 0.85%. But that crowd represents just 16% of the U.S. population, and can be appropriately sheltered.
For the other 84%, you are starting to see consumers get tired of hiding in fear of Covid-19. Unless the science changes, these consumers are going to keep normalizing their behavior over the next few months. Most will continue to wear masks and practice social distancing, but they’ll do so while going to restaurants, shopping, traveling and the like.
Their increased spending on all those things will continue to fuel a global economic rebound.
Against this favorable backdrop, U.S. auto sales, Europe auto sales and Asia auto sales – all of which rebounded sharply in May – will continue to climb higher in June, July and into the end of the year.
A Huge Electrification Boost
Ford has suffered from consistent market share erosion over the past several years, mostly because the company’s diesel vehicle portfolio lost relevance in a market where demand is shifting rapidly toward electric vehicles.
But Ford is finally catching on. Over the next few years, the company is going to unveil a slew of electric vehicles, headlined by an electric Mustang in 2020 and an electric F-150 pick-up truck in 2022.
These new electric vehicles will better align Ford’s vehicle portfolio with the market’s demand trends. The company should be able to leverage increased demand for its new EVs to finally stabilize market share.
If the company can do that, then Ford is on the cusp of going from negative sales growth and profit-margin compression to consistently positive sales growth and margin expansion over the next few years.
Amid this favorable pivot, F stock should move higher.
F Stock is Undervalued
All things considered, F stock is undervalued at current levels.
Per Scotiabank market data, Ford controlled about 7.2% of the global auto market in 2019 in terms of vehicles sold. That share has been dropping for several years, and will likely drop toward 7% in 2020. But, from 2021 to 2025, new EV launches from Ford should help the company stabilize market share around 7%.
Assuming the global auto market returns to steady and mild growth post-2020, then Ford could grow sales by around 3% per year from 2021 to 2025.
During this time, increase demand should lead to higher average selling prices, less discounting and stronger gross margins. Increased scale should also drive positive operating leverage.
Net net, Ford has visible runway to, ex-2020, sustain low-single-digit revenue growth, gradual margin expansion and mid-to-high single-digit profit growth.
Under those assumptions, my modeling suggests that Ford could net around $1.75 in earning per share by 2025. Based on a historically-average 7-times forward earnings multiple and a 10% annual discount rate, that implies a fair 2020 price target for Ford stock of over $8.
Bottom Line on F Stock
A recent surge in Covid-19 cases across America has created weakness in Ford. This weakness is a buying opportunity.
The surge in cases, while worrisome, won’t derail the economic rebound. Nor will it have a significant impact on the auto market, or Ford’s sales. Instead, rebounding auto demand coupled with new EV launches will drive improving growth trends for Ford over the next few quarters.
Those improving growth trends will converge on a massively discounted valuation to spark sizable gains in F stock from currently depressed levels.
Luke Lango is a Markets Analyst for InvestorPlace. He has been professionally analyzing stocks for several years, previously working at various hedge funds and currently running his own investment fund in San Diego. A Caltech graduate, Luke has consistently been recognized as one of the best stock pickers in the world by various other analysts and platforms, and has developed a reputation for leveraging his technology background to identify growth stocks that deliver outstanding returns. Luke is also the founder of Fantastic, a social discovery company backed by an LA-based internet venture firm. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.