The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought the terms risk-on and risk-off into play as investors try to figure out the best stocks to buy in such a volatile market.
A war of such magnitude is a headwind for stocks. As such, they’re currently considered risk-on assets. In times like these, investors look for risk-off assets such as gold, U.S. dollars, dollar-denominated bonds, and even Bitcoin (BTC-USD).
The reality is that, try as we may, there is no such thing as a risk-off or risk-on asset. There are only assets, good and bad, depending on what an investor is trying to accomplish.
For example, if you are risk-averse, in times like these, U.S. Treasury bills are an excellent example of an asset that is risk-off. However, if you’re trying to grow your assets, T-bills are very much a risk-on play due to the ravages of inflation.
InvestorPlace readers tend to be individuals looking to grow their assets. The challenge at the moment is figuring out when stocks are risk-on and risk-off.
I would argue that if your investment horizon is 10 years or longer, stocks are risk-off assets despite the current state of affairs. That said, the price you pay for a stock matters.
The Shiller PE Ratio is currently 35.4x, which except for December 1999, is higher than it’s ever been. U.S. stocks are the third-most-expensive out of 43 global markets. Only Ireland and Denmark are more so.
When the war comes to an end, however it ends, and the world gets back to normal, there will likely be a risk-on rally. Here are seven stocks to buy for when it happens:
- Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B)
- Paramount Global (NASDAQ:PARA)
- Stellantis (NYSE:STLA)
- LVMH (OTCMKTS:LVMUY)
- Equinor (NYSE:EQNR)
- Fresenius SE (OTCMKTS:FSNUY)
- CK Hutchison Holdings (OTCMKTS:CKHUY)
Risk-On Rally Stocks to Buy: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B)
I’m sure you’re wondering why I would include a defensive stock such as Berkshire Hathaway in a list of stocks to buy for a risk-on rally. It’s simple; Warren Buffett’s holding company generates a ton of free cash flow (FCF). In addition, if the risk-on rally doesn’t last, BRK.B remains a fortress against the unknown.
The past year was one of Berkshire’s best years in recent memory, up 29.6%, 90 basis points higher than the S&P 500 index. It was the best return since 2013. The stock is a good mix of offense — it received $785 million in dividends in 2021 from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) along with 34% capital appreciation — and defense — the float from its insurance business has grown from $19 milli0n in 1967 to $147 billion in 2021.
Here’s what Buffett had to say about its insurance business in the 2021 shareholder letter:
“I believe that it is likely – but far from assured – that Berkshire’s float can be maintained without our incurring a long-term underwriting loss. I am certain, however, that there will be some years when we experience such losses, perhaps involving very large sums,” Buffett stated.
“Berkshire is constructed to handle catastrophic events as no other insurer — and that priority will remain long after Charlie (Munger) and I are gone.”
I’ve always said that the actual value of Berkshire will only be determined once every last asset is auctioned off to the highest bidder over a lengthy — decades, not years — divestiture process.
Berkshire is a must-own in my opinion, while he’s alive and long after he’s gone.
Paramount Global (PARA)
The company, formerly known as ViacomCBS, became Paramount Global in mid-February. The company’s announcement of the name change was very corporate in its communication.
However, it’s easy to see why it went with Paramount Global.
First, it’s trying to grow its Paramount+ streaming service, a business that’s expected to deliver significant growth for shareholders.
In Q4 2021, Paramount+ hit 32.8 million subscribers, putting it ahead of several of its competitors, including Discovery’s (NASDAQ:DISCA) Discovery+ at 20 million. The company’s streaming revenue in 2021 from subscriptions and advertising grew 64% year-over-year to $4.2 billion. It now accounts for 14.7% of its overall revenue, 460 basis points higher than 2020.
“We see a huge global opportunity in streaming, a much larger potential market than can be captured by linear TV and film alone,” stated CEO Bob Bakish in its press release.
Secondly, and equally important, it puts the company’s dreadful past in the rearview mirror. The mere mention of Viacom and CBS brings forth memories of a long-dysfunctional marriage. The name Paramount reaches back to an iconic past while looking forward to the future. It was a no-brainer.
As for PARA stock, it’s rather cheap at the moment. It trades at 0.9x sales, and its enterprise value of $35.3 billion is just 5.4x earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), about half its five-year average.
Paramount Global is growth at a reasonable price.
Risk-On Rally Stocks to Buy: Stellantis (STLA)
I was tempted to recommend Exor (OTCMKTS:EXXRF), the Agnelli family’s holding company. It owns 14.4% of Stellantis along with investments in a bunch of businesses, including Christian Louboutin, known for its red sole women’s shoes.
Stellantis outlined its nine-year strategic plan, Dare Forward 2030, on 4. If you’re a Jeep fan, as I am, you ought to be excited about what it had to say about the brand’s future.
First, the company plans to double revenue to $335 billion by 2030 across all 14 of its brands. It also plans to maintain its North American margin of 16.3%, 610 and 790 basis points higher than General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford (NYSE:F), respectively, despite the higher cost to make electric vehicles (EVs).
To get the job done electrifying the company’s EV fleet, it will spend $36 billion over nine years. CEO Carlos Tavares believes money’s not the problem; it’s executing at a high level.
Stellantis’ goal is to sell 5 million EVs annually by 2030, with Europe all-electric and North America 50% of the way to electrification. Jeep plans a small SUV for the first half of 2023 with a Wrangler-like SUV and family SUV to follow in 2024.
It might be the underdog in the eyes of many investors. I’m a contrarian. I see a strong road ahead for the company and its stock.
Rumors surfaced in February that LVMH was in talks to buy Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL). The iconic brand’s $8.7 billion enterprise value would be an appetizer for a company as large as the luxury conglomerate — LVMH’s enterprise value is 40x Ralph Lauren’s — whose corporate name includes three of its major brands: Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon and Hennessy.
Axios first broke the story, suggesting that LVMH wants the Polo brand because it would give it a much larger U.S. footprint. In 2021, the U.S.accounted for 26% of its overall sales. Asia remains LVMH’s largest market at 35%.
The Axios report makes some excellent points about why the deal has merit.
Ralph Lauren is 82 years old. He won’t be around forever. Given the business is turning a corner, it would be an ideal time to sell off the company that he built from the ground up. In addition, LVMH knows how to turn brands into luxury powerhouses. Ralph Lauren could easily be transformed into a luxury brand with higher price points.
Through the first nine months ended Dec. 25, Ralph Lauren had operating income of $761.6 million from $4.7 billion in sales. In the same period a year ago, it had an operating loss of $17.9 million from $3.11 billion in sales.
If the deal happens, Ralph Lauren should take the purchase price in LVMH stock. In the hands of the French firm, his family will be taken care of for generations to come.
Risk-On Rally Stocks to Buy: Equinor (EQNR)
Norwegian energy giant Equinor is based in Stavanger, a town I once visited for a wedding of a good friend. Once a sleepy village, it came alive in the mid-to-late 1960s when the North Sea oil field got further developed.
In May 2018, Statoil became Equinor to reflect the fact it was no longer just oil and gas. It’s also wind and solar. It expects to grow its renewable energy capacity ten-fold by 2026. By 2030, it will have 12-16 megawatts of net production capacity from renewables.
In the meantime, its oil and gas business is expected to generate $45 billion in free cash flow between 2021 and 2026. However, that’s based on a $60 barrel of oil. For every day oil trades above $100, that adds to the total. (Brent crude was hovering just below $127 as this article went to press.)
In 2021, Equinor had adjusted after-tax net income of $10 billion from the production of 2.08 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (mboe/d) and 1,562-gigawatt-hours (GWh). At the moment, its oil breakeven is $35 a barrel.
In 2022, it plans to buy back $5 billion of its stock. Its quarterly dividend of 20 cents currently yields 2.4%. EQNR stock is up almost 26% YTD and 69% over the past year. Despite the big gains, a risk-on rally would likely push its stock into the $40s and an all-time high.
The government of Norway owns 67% of Equinor stock. The country remains in charge of its own energy needs. That’s a good thing.
Fresenius SE (FSNUY)
Fresenius is a German-based healthcare holding company.
It owns or has an interest in four different businesses: 32% of Fresenius Medical Care (NYSE:FMS), 100% of Fresenius Kabi manufactures hospital supplies and medical devices, 100% of Fresenius Helios, Europe’s largest private operator of hospitals, and 77% of Fresenius Vamed, which manages healthcare projects and provides services for hospitals and other healthcare facilities in 95 countries.
For all of 2021, Fresenius had 37.5 billion Euros ($41.0 billion) in revenue, 5% higher YOY excluding currency, and 1.87 billion Euros ($2.0 billion) in net income, also 5% higher than 2020.
Free cash flow, while down in 2021, was still 3.06 billion Euros ($3.35 billion), or 8.2% of its total revenue. Based on a 15.7 billion ($17.2 billion) market cap, it has an FCF yield of 19.5%. I consider anything over 8% to be value territory.
The company plans to get its net debt to EBITDA ratio down to as low as 3.0x in 2022. It expects 5% revenue growth and low-single-digit growth of net income. Down 24% in 2022, Fresenius is definitely the value play of the seven.
Fresenius has increased its dividend for 29 consecutive years. It pays out a conservative 20-25% of earnings.
Approximately 27% of the company is owned by the Else Kröner Fresenius Stiftung, a foundation established by Else Kröner, the German entrepreneur who built a massive healthcare business from a small Frankfurt pharmaceutical company.
Risk-On Rally Stocks to Buy: CK Hutchison Holdings (CKHUY)
A close second to Fresenius as a value play is the Hong-Kong investment company founded and controlled by billionaire Li Ka-Shing. Mr. Li is the 42nd-wealthiest person on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $29.2 billion. He is said to be Hong Kong’s wealthiest person.
Li founded the company in 1950. He led the conglomerate until stepping down in 2018. Li’s son Victor took over as chairman from his dad. He remains the chief executive of the holding company.
The company has five major businesses: Ports and Related Services (12% of EBITDA), Retail (17%), Infrastructure (22%), Telecom (47%), and Finance & Investments (2%). In the six months ended June 30, 2021, the company had revenues of 212.39 billion Hong Kong Dollars ($27.18 billion) and EBITDA of 68.17 billion Hong Kong Dollars ($8.72 billion), good for a 32% EBITDA margin.
At first look, CK Hutchison looks like a terrible investment. It has an annualized total return of -6.77%.
It might not be in Berkshire Hathaway’s league, but it’s close. However, in recent years, compared to the Hang Seng Index — it is down 24.7% over the past year compared to -6.34% for CK Hutchison — it’s doing fine.
It might not be in Berkshire’s league, but its assets are worth far more than investors are currently valuing them.
On the date of publication, Will Ashworth did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.