Goldman Sachs has a new strategy for investors to consider. The firm has now revealed that the most dominant companies in an industry tend to outperform companies with a smaller percentage of market sales. There’s even a name for these kind of companies ‘superstar firms.’
“The market positioning of superstar firms often allows for greater bargaining power over consumers and workers and higher profitability,” Goldman's senior US equity strategist David Kostin told investors. “Superstar firms have been one driver of the explosion in US corporate margins post-crisis.”
According to Kostin, companies with the highest share of industry sales have returned 49% since 2015. In contrast, companies with the lowest share of industry sales returned just 16% over the same time-frame. Here we take a closer look at five of the most prominent stocks in Goldman Sachs' 'superstar' portfolio. Should you buy into these names now? Let’s see what the Street has to say now…
1. Altria (MO)
- 88% share of industry US sales
During the last five years, tobacco giant MO has gained 23%. That’s despite a disastrous 2018 which saw prices pullback 30%. So far in 2019, shares are holding steady- and Wells Fargo’s Bonnie Herzog spies upside ahead. She has just reiterated her Buy rating with a price target of $65 (28% upside potential).
She believes that Altria will be able to weather the shift from traditional cigarettes to vapor products. “Major tobacco manufacturers are well-positioned in the current regulatory/political environment driven by strong management teams and a deep reservoir of bench talent and funds to drive innovation” says the analyst.
Interestingly, Herzog adds that industry consolidation “will increasingly favor scale in the global ‘arms’ race in reduced-risk products (RRPs) while addressing the youth crisis.” Altria, for example, recently invested $12.8 billion in leading e-cigarette maker Juul Labs as well as a further $1.8 billion in cannabis stock Cronos Group (CRON). Luckily for Altria, Juul recently revealed Q1 sales of $528 million, up 23% from the previous quarter’s revenue. Now there is talk that Juul could be on the way to opening its own chain of vaping shops, starting in Houston and Dallas, Texas.
Meanwhile Altria will also exclusively distribute Philip Morris International's (PM) "heat-not-burn" tobacco device. Called IQOS the device heats tobacco to around 350°C vs temperatures in excess of 600°C for a cigarette. “Because the tobacco is heated and not burned, the levels of harmful chemicals are significantly reduced compared to cigarette smoke” claims the company.
Overall, we can see that the stock has a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy analyst consensus. This is based on all the ratings received by the company over the last three months. Meanwhile the average analyst price target of $60 indicates upside potential of 18% from current levels.
2. Alphabet (GOOGL)
- 63% share of industry US sales
Looking back, GOOGL has almost doubled in value over the last five years. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t further upside potential ahead. GOOGL still retains a bullish ‘Strong Buy’ Street consensus. What’s more, the $1,334 average analyst price target indicates upside potential of over 22%. That’s despite more anti-trust talk from regulators, with Makan Delrahim (Assistant AG, DOJ) suggesting that stricter regulation may be coming.
“Investors may be getting relatively comfortable with the underlying regulatory risk given that so far, the financial performance at FB, GOOGL and AMZN continues to be in line or even better than what the Street has been expecting” notes top-rated SunTrust Robinson analyst Youssef Squali.
Given the complexity and global considerations of regulating and/or breaking up big tech, Squali is confident that it is likely to take years for regulatory measures to be implemented, and even longer for them to start impacting the financials of these companies.
What’s more there is a growing realization that even in case of a break-up of a behemoth like GOOGL, the value of the parts may be higher than the whole over time. For example, Needham analyst Laura Martin has just reiterated her GOOGL buy rating with a $1,350 price target. She has calculated that the company could be worth nearly 50% more than its current valuation in the case of a break-up.
Martin values Google search at $600 per Alphabet share, YouTube at $200, and the Android App Store at $100. Plus there are extra contributions from Gmail, Maps, Waymo, DeepMind etc. “Elevated regulatory scrutiny adds costs and margin pressures for 2-4 years, but probably has little impact on revenue growth or consumer usage until outcomes are determined and then fought out in the courts,” she concluded.
3. General Electric (GE)
- 51% share of industry US sales
With new CEO Larry Culp at the helm, General Electric has put on a remarkable year-to-date rally of over 40%. The company was primed for a rebound after plunging over 50% in 2018. And analysts are currently divided about the stock’s outlook going forward.
The key question is whether Culp’s multiyear turnaround plan will succeed to boost the company while reducing its massive $110 billion debt pile (as of March 31, according to FactSet). Cowen & Co’s Gautam Khanna sums up the problem here: “The major debates on GE's stock, which won't be resolved for years, are whether cost cutting & portfolio actions will return Industrial to sustained high FCF [free cash flow] conversion, & if Capital will require more cash support.”
As a result, the analyst reiterates his Hold rating on GE with an $8 price target. That suggests shares could fall 20% from current levels.
However, there are some more positive voices in the crowd. Most noticeably, William Blair’s Nicholas Heymann has just reiterated his GE Buy rating. He believes GE can ‘materially outperform’ the market over the next 12 months.
“We continue to believe GE’s underlying intrinsic value (with no value assigned to Power) is somewhere in the range of $14-$16 per share,” the analyst revealed, describing this as a “highly feasible base-case valuation for GE’s share price over the next 6-12 months.”
“The unbridled fear that overshadowed a rational assessment of the company’s underlying fair value exiting 2018 is beginning to recede and be replaced with far less ambiguous and more tangible plans and actions that will support a likely materially higher value for GE’s stock over the next 12 months and beyond,” said Heymann.
4. Walt Disney (DIS)
- 49% share of industry US sales
This is a critical year for Walt Disney. As well as two new Star Wars attractions, DIS is also launching its own direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming service known as Disney+. Clearly investors are feeling optimistic- boosted by the success of Avengers: Endgame (the second highest-grossing film of all time), shares are up 29% year-to-date. This brings Walt Disney’s total five-year gain of over 70%.
It’s not just investors that are bullish on DIS right now. In the last three months, 16 analysts have published DIS Buy ratings vs just 3 Hold ratings. That gives DIS its ‘Strong Buy’ Street consensus. Meanwhile the average analyst price target of $153 indicates upside potential of 8%. “I believe that Disney+ will be a significant revenue driving opportunity along with the ongoing success of Disney Studios and Theme Parks” commented five-star Tigress Financial analyst Ivan Feinseth.
“I further believe both Star Wars and Marvel franchises including a number of series from both these franchises will be significant drivers for Disney+ subscriptions,” Feinseth wrote. ‘Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker’ is set for release this December, and could also generate a whopping $2 billion in box office revenue.
At the same time Morgan Stanley’s Benjamin Swinburne has just raised Disney’s long-term DTC subscribers and earnings estimates. This leads him to a new $160 price target and $210 bull case. He is now forecasting over 130mm global OTT subscribers by 2024, and is confident that DIS shares can sustain a premium multiple as the service ramps up.
The analyst’s willingness to underwrite these higher estimates stems from: 1) A faster-than-expected global launch for Disney+; 2) More IP aggregating more quickly than anticipated; and 3) A plan to leverage third-party distribution.
5. General Motors (GM)
- 48% share of industry US sales
Only three analysts have published recent ratings on GM. Two analysts are staying neutral on the stock, while one analyst- Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas- has a bullish rating on GM. Encouragingly, out of the three analysts, Jonas is the analyst with the strongest stock picking track record.
Following relatively ‘in-line’ Q1 earnings results, Jonas reiterated his buy rating and Street-high price target of $44. From current levels that translates into 23% upside potential. According to the analyst, Q1 earnings didn’t fundamentally change his take on the GM story- especially if you strip away the mark-to-market ‘noise’ from the Lyft (LYFT) and PSA revaluations. Nonetheless, Jonas revealed that he was "sympathetic to some investor profit taking" after prices climbed 5% in April.
And the analyst also moved to temper expectations surrounding GM’s self-driving Cruise unit. "While we think GM Cruise has important technological value, we urge investors to lower expectations on revenue generation and profitability of the unit," Jonas advised. "Taking nothing away from GM cruise, it is our understanding that the technology required to remove human drivers at an acceptable level of consumer safety is likely many years away." He continued: "And the legal and regulatory construct to support, even proven technology, may present even greater hurdles largely outside of GM Cruise's control."
At the time of writing, General Motors has enjoyed a modest year-to-date rise of 7%. Despite rallying in both 2016, and 2017, 2018 was a more difficult year for GM investors with the stock losing 19%.