Market followers may believe the words “cheap” and “tech stocks” do not go together. But that’s not necessarily the truth. Investors simply need to know where to look to find cheap stocks. And investors can find stocks that are cheap in terms of price or with low valuations with relative ease.
But the real trick is to find stocks which are cheap but won’t likely stay that way.
Just a few weeks into 2021 and it looks like tech stocks should continue their strong performance. Market outlooks regarding tech performance vary, but generally look strong moving into 2021. Late last year, Yardeni Research stated that it expected 8% growth in the S&P 500 index technology sector for 2021. The same report anticipated 13.6% earnings growth stemming from that 8% overall growth.
Still, Yardeni offered a word of caution regarding current valuations. Based on the forward price-to-earnings ratio of the S&P’s tech sector at 27, the tenor of the article was one of cautious optimism. Forward P/E ratios during the tech bubble hovered around 40, and sunk to the single digits in 2008. So, at 27 the bubble popping doesn’t appear imminent.
I would say. though. that investors are likely to move toward better valued, cheaper tech stocks this year. Tech is still strong but a lot of money is in the major names. They’re still attractive, but becoming less so. That means cheaper tech should get a bump in 2021. Here are some names to consider.
- Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)
- NortonLifeLock (NASDAQ:NLOK)
- Salesforce (NYSE:CRM)
- Aspen Technology (NASDAQ:AZPN)
- Leidos Holdings (NYSE:LDOS)
- Xperi Holding (NASDAQ:XPER)
- LG Display (NYSE:LPL)
Cheap Stocks: Intel (INTC)
Intel recently appointed a new CEO in Pat Gelsinger on Jan. 13. INTC stock rose more than 10% on the news. But even before that positive news, Intel looked to be on the right track despite a tumultuous 2020.
The overarching narrative on Intel was that because it ceded its place as the largest semiconductor manufacturer to Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) in July, it was finished. I’ve maintained that this is little more than a temporary bump in the road for the company as it moves past its missteps.
Nvidia overtook Intel, and then it also purchased ARM for $40 billion in September which left some believing Intel had been dealt a death blow. And while it was a strong move which allows Nvidia to strengthen its position in artificial intelligence, it wasn’t the end of Intel. Nor was Nvidia the only company to supposedly supplant Intel in 2020. AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) also grabbed many more headlines in 2020 than Intel.
The result was that both AMD and Nvidia skyrocketed, while Intel plunged. The oft-cited P/E ratio as a measure of value told a valuable story. While Intel’s P/E ratio sits at around 11 currently, AMD and Nvidia sit near 122 and 84, respectively. Investors should take note that Intel looks very cheap.
Markets criticize Intel’s strategy of tightly bundling design and manufacturing in-house while AMD, Nvidia and many other semiconductor firms choose to outsource manufacturing to Asian giants Taiwan, China, and South Korea. Intel will likely outsource some of its manufacturing soon. I fully expect it to jump soon.
Consumers are growing increasingly concerned as more and more of our lives becomes digitized. Cyberthreats are rising. This is part of the reason that considering an investment in NortonLifeLock makes sense.
There are many concerns for which consumers feel vulnerable: identity, online, while using connected devices, and in our homes. NLOK stock covers all of those concerns and gives investors a play at each.
NortonLifeLock was formerly the consumer arm of Symantec’s security business. When Broadcom (NASDAQ:AVGO) purchased that business in late 2019, it did so primarily for Symantec’s enterprise security assets. The result was that NortonLifeLock sprung out as the remnant consumer security business under a rebranding.
NortonLifeLock is heading into the consumer security realm full force, acquiring Avira in December. The result is that the company expands its presence in Europe and emerging markets and is expected to be accretive within a year.
The company is very cheap now, both in terms of its $20 share price, and its P/E ratio of 5.21.
Salesforce is a leader in customer relationship management. So much so that its stock ticker lends its initials to the business practice itself. That business practice is rife with strong competition.
And yes, Salesforce should be considered, as Piper Sandler analyst Brent Bracelin put it, a hungry hippo after its acquisition of Tableau (2019) and the pending deal to buy Slack Technologies (NYSE:WORK). Logically Salesforce will deal with issues as it integrates both, with margins in particular remaining an issue.
But the fact is that despite Salesforce’s outsized position in the industry, it may well be a bargain right now. As of this writing it carries a P/E ratio of 55.68. That isn’t exactly great — it’s in the lower third of industry peers — but CRM stock has already shed 24% of its value since early September.
With its definitive agreement to purchase Slack and its leading position it has a good chance to rise. Salesforce is the grandaddy in the industry, Slack is much younger and perhaps more relevant. Although the deal won’t close until second quarter of 2022, it should still bode well for CRM stock.
That stock isn’t cheap by the most often-used P/E ratio, but it is on a bit of a dip now. As the leader in the crowded CRM niche, Salesforce makes sense as a buy-and-hold that should rise soon.
Aspen Technology (AZPN)
Aspen Technology is a company that focuses on the intersection of artificial intelligence and industrial manufacturing. The company serves industries including oil and gas and engineering making it a stock with less media exposure than more everyday tech names.
AZPN stock’s Q4 EPS beat probably led to higher expectations going into its fiscal Q1 which were somewhat unattainable in this environment. The company exceeded expectation in fiscal Q4 and importantly posted an EPS of $1.54, well eclipsing its $1.18 guidance. Q1 EPS results were disappointing in that they failed to announce earnings on time.
One of the focal points of Aspen Technology is the self-optimizing plant. The company has several decades of experience in plant optimization and experience in the burgeoning AI field to enable new solutions. The company’s solutions intend to allow “autonomous processes that enable industrial facilities to instantly react and adapt to changes across the value chain, thereby driving new levels of safety, sustainability and profitability.”
AZPN stock carries a forward P/E ratio better than nearly 60% of the industry. That means investors can get a piece of this burgeoning subsector of AI relatively cheap. The company has a history of value creation as well and has proven that it wisely allocates capital for efficient returns.
Leidos Holdings (LDOS)
Leidos Holdings is an IT firm in the government space with a lot going for it. Wall Street loves it right now: 11 of the analysts covering it give it a “buy” while there are two “holds” and no ratings lower. That means there’s probably going to be a flood of positive sentiment given the sway of analyst ratings.
LDOS stock looks to be a no-brainer given its strong recent quarters. Leidos posted a Q2 earnings beat with an EPS of $1.55 on $1.11 guidance. Then the firm posted another beat in Q3 of $1.47 EPS, besting guidance of $1.23.
Q3 top-line revenues were $3.24 billion, besting the previous year’s revenues by 14.4%. The company also managed to increase operating margins at the same time.
The company also recently improved its position in cloud with a $215 million purchase of 1901 Group. The company’s recent results in a strongly relationship-based federal sector makes it a solid choice. And the stock is cheap relative to other software peers based on traditional P/E, and forward P/E ratios.
Xperi Holding (XPER)
Xperi Holding is a consumer entertainment licensing company. It has a portfolio of media and semiconductor IP totaling over 11,000 patents.
The company is divided into a product business and an IP licensing business. Its product business includes company developed assets revolving around user experience. It licenses these assets across the media and semiconductor industries. Xperi also leverages its other IP for similar purposes.
The company’s Q3 earnings release highlights the reasons that four out of five analysts covering XPER stock have it as a “buy.” The company settled intellectual property litigation with Comcast which extends into 2031, and announced many new deals with IMAX and TiVo licensing assets.
As a result, the company was able to revise upward its outlook for the second half by roughly 50% and it posted $202.8 million in Q3 revenues. XPER shares are a cheap play on content and IP rights and look worthwhile given market trends.
LG Display (LPL)
LG Display manufactures and sells thin film transistors and organic light emitting diodes, better known as OLEDs. LPL stock can currently be had for less than $10 per share. It increased by 41% over the past year
The company experienced a decline from 2018 to 2019. Although top-line revenues were nearly identical in the two years, LG Display went from operation profitability in 2018 to significant operational losses in 2019. In 2020 operational losses, though still significant, were turning in the right direction.
LG Display has experienced a trend toward increasing prices for its displays over the past two years but also a decreasing market share of the global display market. LG Display is consistently at the leading edge of display technology, and with LPL stock at under $10 per share there’s a lot to like about it.
On the date of publication, Alex Sirois did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.
Alex Sirois is a freelance contributor to InvestorPlace whose personal stock investing style is focused on long-term, buy-and-hold, wealth-building stock picks. Having worked in several industries from e-commerce to translation to education and utilizing his MBA from George Washington University, he brings a diverse set of skills through which he filters his writing.