Are These Stocks a Buy After Earnings?

Brian is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

As most of the big-name companies have already reported earnings, investors don’t seem quite as preoccupied with current and upcoming reports. Yet despite the volume of companies reporting being lowered, there are still many market-moving reports. With that said, I am looking at three companies that reported on Tuesday to determine if any are a buy.

An Expensive Stock With Future Upside Priced Into its Valuation

The most watched post-earning stock performance on Tuesday was from SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY), as investors expected strong performance following Tesla’s record quarter.

In the last month SolarCity stock had increased 85%, but then ticked lower 12.4% on Tuesday after a missed quarter. On many fronts, the company showed strength, but on others, there was weakness. For example, investors might not like their short-term guidance and the margin weakness, but should be encouraged with its deployment guidance over the next year.

While SolarCity’s quarter had both positive and negatives, most believe that the real upside for this stock is for the long-term, not necessary right now. The company works closely with Tesla and is involved in the installation and sale of solar energy systems. This is potentially a lucrative business, yet when you consider the unknowns of the business, SolarCity is a company that is quite expensive.

Currently, the stock is trading at more than 18 times sales and has operating margins of (53.5%). Thus with most upside being long-term, the stock being very expensive, and nowhere near profitability, I suggest sitting this one out and maybe exploring its valuation and its upside in the next 24 months.

A Lack of Clear Value Makes this High-Flyer a Sell

InterOil (NYSE: IOC) is a $4.2 billion company that has seen its valuation increase 55% in 2013, including 9.57% on Tuesday after reporting earnings. For the quarter, InterOil beat on the top line and met bottom line expectations, but the upside was created due to comments regarding the much anticipated partnership selection for its Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas project.

When you look at InterOil’s quarter, it was mostly boring with nothing spectacular to note. However, the company has been in the process of seeking a partner, which many investors believe will improve cash flow and lead to a resource selldown. Thus the company’s comments of “several bids” and being in the “final stages” created optimism.

My problem is that I don’t think the stock is either cheap nor do I believe the company is efficient. It currently trades at 3.10 times sales (which is fair value) but has an operating margin of just 1.13%. Neither number is attractive, and after large YTD gains, I fear that all upside may be priced into the stock. Hence I don’t necessarily think InterOil is a bad investment, I just don’t see clear value.

An Undervalued Transportation Stock to Buy

While the transportation sector trades at all-time highs, Copa Holdings (NYSE: CPA) is a great under-the-radar growing investment in the space. On Tuesday it rose 7.88% after reporting very strong earnings that beat on both the top and bottom line by a wide margin. The company saw both an 18% rise in total revenue and a boost in margins. The Panama-based company continues to expand its horizons and venture out on further flights, including a 6.3% rise in length during the last quarter.

Over the last year, Copa has increased 68%, yet considering its growth, the company is fairly cheap. The stock trades with a price/sales of 2.60 and at 19 times earnings. Both metrics are slightly greater than the S&P 500. However, Copa is fundamentally outperforming the growth of the market by a large margin, thus making the stock attractive when considering growth relative to its valuation. In my opinion, Copa is not expensive, and even after its large gains, I still say to “buy”.

Conclusion

In my book, Taking Charge With Value Investing (McGraw-Hill, 2013), I discuss the art of buying after earnings. For the most part, success is measured by your ability to do two things. First, determine a company’s valuation relative to the broader market compared to growth. Second, read the report and listen to the call first and then look at the stock performance. You can then make a logical investment decision not impacted by emotion. Thus take these two pieces of advice, and I think you will find that your returns will increase when buying after earnings. 

The best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich" names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.


Brian Nichols has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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