硅谷银行金融集团（SVB Financial Group）填补了不同寻常的细分市场：该集团是硅谷银行的控股公司，硅谷银行专门向主攻科技领域的风险资本投资者提供贷款。与其他地区性银行相比，硅谷银行的可变利率贷款组合规模庞大，可变利率贷款的利息收入会随着现行利率下降而变少，所以很容易受到美联储大范围降息的影响。在美联储7月降息之前，硅谷银行下调了对2019年利息相关利润的预测，部分投资者因此离场。过去一年时间里，该公司股价下跌了39%。
Centene是近年来全美增长最快的健康保险公司之一，但今年以来该公司股价下跌了15%，部分原因是许多投资者认为，该公司170亿美元收购Medicare和Medicaid附属医疗计划提供商WellCare交易的出价过高。但是，质疑者忽视了收购的一大好处，可以获得WellCare的Medicare Advantage客户群。Jefferies的高级分析师大卫·温德利将公私合营计划称为医疗保险领域中的“金发姑娘”，比单纯的Medicaid计划更有利润前景，而且随着越来越多的婴儿潮一代加入Medicare计划，其增长速度比大多数其他医疗计划都要快。收购WellCare的交易正等待监管部门批准，温德利预期收购完成后Centene的Medicare Advantage业务规模将扩大一倍。正因如此，分析师才会一致预测Centene未来三到五年的每股收益可实现年增长率18.6%，而对同期标普500指数的年增长率预测仅为5.7%。
Fears of a domestic slowdown and the escalation of the U.S.-China trade war created plenty of headaches for shareholders this summer. But even after dramatic market swoons in May and August, investors still seem willing to pay top dollar for stocks—especially those that promise substantial growth.
As measured by the Shiller price-to-earnings ratio, which compares companies’ share prices to the 10-year, inflation-adjusted average of their profits, the S&P 500 sat at just above 29 in mid-August. That’s higher than at nearly any other time on record, with the exceptions of the run-up in 1929 and the 2000 dotcom boom. (Neither one of those surges ended well, as you may recall.)
What’s more, as investors anticipate the inevitable end of the current bull market, institutional players like mutual funds and hedge funds have concentrated their money in the companies that seem like the safest bets for earnings growth. That has driven valuations for such crowded-trade stocks even higher—in mid-August, Visa and Facebook traded at more than 30 times earnings, while Adobe and PayPal traded at around 50 times earnings.
It all creates a conundrum for Warren ¬Buffett–style value investors—the ones who seek the long-term potential that comes from a combination of robust growth and a reasonable price tag. To find such value candidates, we scoured this year’s list of Fortune’s Fastest-Growing Companies and found four that combine strong earnings outlooks with valuations that remain far below nosebleed territory.
SVB Financial Group fills an unusual niche: It’s the holding company of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), which specializes in lending to tech-focused venture capital investors. Compared with other regional banks, SVB has a particularly large portfolio of ¬variable-rate loans, whose interest payments fall when prevailing rates decline—which makes it vulnerable to broader cuts by the Federal Reserve. The run-up to the Fed’s July rate cut led SVB to lower its forecast for interest-related profits for 2019, and some investors fled; the stock is down 39% over the past year.
Piper Jaffray analyst Brett Rabatin believes the worst is likely over. At this point, he says, interest rate news “is more than priced in” to the stock. What hasn’t changed? The strength of SVB’s main revenue source. Venture capital investment reached $66 billion through the second quarter of this year, on pace for its second-best year ever. The stock is currently priced in line with other regional banks, at nine times earnings, but Rabatin believes it will deserve a premium once the interest rate shocks recede.
Centene has been among the country’s fastest-growing health insurance companies in recent years. Its shares have fallen 15% year to date, however, in part because many investors believe it overpaid in its $17 billion purchase of WellCare, a provider of Medicare- and Medicaid-affiliated health care plans. But skeptics miss one of the acquisition’s big benefits: WellCare’s pool of Medicare Advantage customers. Jefferies senior analyst David Windley calls these public-private hybrid plans the “Goldilocks” of the health insurance space—more profitable than Medicaid plans, and growing faster than most other health plan categories as more baby boomers age into Medicare. The purchase of WellCare, which is pending regulatory approval, will double the size of Centene’s Medicare Advantage business, Windley calculates. That’s a major reason that analysts’ consensus estimates show Centene’s earnings per share growing 18.6% annually for the next three to five years, compared with just 5.7% for the S&P 500.
有些公司的估值较低是因为处于商业周期中的低谷。半导体设备供应商Lam Research制造的元件用于多款芯片，包括为iPhone和一系列人工智能应用使用的芯片。该行业的起伏基本上与创新繁荣和供应过剩对应。此前两个财年Lam实现了惊人增长，但在截至6月30日的2019财年其销售额下降了13%。不过，随着投资者预期下一轮反弹即将到来，其股价已经开始回升。过去一个月里，NAND存储芯片的价格自2017年以来首次上涨，该类芯片在Lam营收中占近一半。投行KeyBanc Capital Markets的分析师韦斯顿·特维格表示：“这是个好兆头。”他预计，2020年Lam的营收将增长12%。
Some companies sport low valuations because of where they sit in their business cycle. Lam Research makes equipment found in many kinds of chips, including those that power iPhones and a range of artificial intelligence applications. It’s an industry that rises and falls on innovation booms and supply gluts. After stratospheric growth in its previous two fiscal years, Lam’s sales fell 13% in its fiscal 2019, which ended June 30. But its stock has begun to rally as investors anticipate the next rebound. Prices for NAND memory chips, which account for nearly half of Lam’s revenues, have risen over the past month for the first time since 2017. “It’s a good sign,” says KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Weston Twigg, who forecasts a 12% rise in revenues for Lam in 2020.
In pharmaceutical stocks, finding a bargain can mean making a contrarian bet on a disfavored drug. Maryland-based Supernus Pharmaceuticals has staked much of its future on two drugs designed to fight ADHD. One, a non-stimulant dubbed SPN-812, has shown the ability to alleviate symptoms within a week during trials—a big differentiator, since similar non-¬stimulants can require a month or more to take effect. Investors were unnerved, however, by the drug’s Phase III clinical trials, in which higher doses had no additional positive effect. Over the past year, Supernus’s share price has sunk 47%.
Esther Hong, an analyst for Janney, argues that the market has been too pessimistic: Despite the dosage hiccup, both SPN-812 and Supernus’s other ADHD drug have shown positive results. Hong believes SPN-812 could be a billion-dollar drug in the long term if, as anticipated, it wins FDA approval and launches next year. That could offer a portfolio-burnishing boost for investors in a company with a current market capitalization of just $1.5 billion.
A version of this article appears in the September 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Inside the Bargain Hunter’s Club.”