Argus research is truly considered independent, meaning the firm has no investment banking relationships with public companies that would cloud its judgment. This is a key reason we value its research. The firm is joining in on the myriad of research reports issuing top picks and lists of stocks to buy for 2014.
With so many picks out there to choose from, we would remind readers that stocks are effectively back at all-time highs and that many non-momentum style picks might want to be accumulated on pullbacks rather than chasing share prices all at once. Here are the companies we screened from the first half of the Argus Analyst Top Picks for 2014, with a few less active or lesser-known companies not included.
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Altera Corp. (ALTR) in 2014 will begin producing its high-end Stratix 10 FPGA at Intel's site on Intel's 14 nm Tri-Gate process. Altera is also more exposed to the China 4G nationwide deployment, and its competitive advantages should be restored after a poor 2013. Argus noted:
Discounted free cash flow modeling signals value in the high $40s to low $50s, while historical comparable valuation renders a value in the mid- to upper $30s. Our blended fair-value calculation is now $46, in a rising trend.
The firm's official price target of $39, plus the yield of about 1.9%, implies a risk-adjusted total return above 20%.
eBay Inc. (EBAY) may simply be an opportunistic addition as shares have moved back once again to the low $50s on the heels of cautious guidance. Argus believes that eBay's recent results are impressive, given sluggish economic conditions worldwide and substantial pressures from Europe. It calls eBay a secular growth story and believes that the mobile growth story is still in its early innings for both PayPal and eBay marketplaces. The firm believes that the recent sell-off provides an attractive entry point.
Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (EPD) is the sole master limited partnership in the first half of the top picks list. This MLP currently yields an attractive 4.3%, is the leader of the sector and trades at a premium to peers. Argus believes the premium is actually warranted and its target price on the shares is $70. That implies 15% upside, plus that distribution.
Facebook Inc. (FB) is getting a boost from being added to the S&P 500 index. Argus points out that Facebook has six-times the reach of the Twitterverse and also that LinkedIn is dwarfed both in user base and engagement by Facebook. The social media giant is also expected to continue growing much faster than overall advertising trends as advertisers become more comfortable. Argus has a two-stage discounted cash flow model pointing to a valuation range in low $60s, up about 20% from the $50.90 level after the news of the S&P 500 addition.
Home Depot Inc. (NYSE; HD) just gave its guidance for the year ahead, and Argus has it as a top pick for 2014. It said:
Better-than-expected earnings and sales, improving return on capital, increases in our earnings estimates, signs of improving customer service during recent store visits, rising home prices and impressive execution of the business plan have strengthened our conviction that management will be able to surpass its target operating margin of 12% by FY16.
Even after shares have doubled in two years, the Argus target price of $93 implies expected gains of about 18%, plus its 2% dividend yield.
Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) is Argus's top casino pick for its Las Vegas and Macau operations, and now Singapore is contributing too. Argus expects earnings growth above peers and sees a continued recovery in Las Vegas. Sands is listed as the fastest-growing gaming company, with about 16% growth versus about 12.5% for peers. Its forward P/E of about 20 is also less than the industry median of 23.5.
Mylan Inc. (MYL) is a pick in generic and branded drugs that is considered on the cusp of exiting mid-cap status and moving into the realm of the large-caps with several growth drivers over the next four to six years. Its launch of the EpiPen outside the United States and its growth in generic injectables are cited. Mylan also has the planned launch in 2014 of generic Copaxone, which is Teva's $3.6 billion multiple sclerosis drug. The firm's price target for 2014 is $52, implying 25% upside from a $41.50 price now.
National Oilwell Varco Inc. (NOV) is considered a cheap valuation at 12.1 times the firm's 2014 earnings estimates, while it believes a premium valuation to peers should exist for NOV. The planned spin-off of its low-margin distribution business into another publicly traded company creates a special situation as well, along with strong growth prospects coming into 2014 for the core business.
Northeast Utilities (NU) may not seem like much on the surface, but a $49 price target implies upside of about 20%, before considering that it also yields 3.3%. The firm believes that cost synergies from the merger of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR will continue at the same time that its investments in the transmission segment should add to the regulated rate base. Argus also believes that Northeast has improved on its earnings transparency and that its gas distribution business could offer upside to consensus forecasts.