When investors see the words “undervalued tech stocks,” the first companies that jump to mind are probably the mega-cap giants like Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). The large-cap space certainly has more than its share of cheap tech stocks, but a look into mid- and small-cap territory reveals other, less talked-about opportunities. Computer Sciences (NYSE:CSC), Lexmark International (NYSE:LXK), and China Digital TV (NYSE:STV), are three such stocks that deserve more attention than they receive.
Shares of CSC, an IT-outsourcing company, have been pummeled from a February high above $56 to $37.20 on Wednesday. The stock has been hit by less-than-stellar earnings results and concerns that the U.S. government’s perilous fiscal situation will weigh on the 39% of CSC’s business that comes from federal contracts. That’s undoubtedly a legitimate worry, but also one that is well-known at this point. At 7.3 times 2012 estimates (and a price-to-earnings-to-growth ratio of 0.9) and a share price sitting at 0.8 times book value, it appears that the bad news is fully discounted in the stock. Two other key points regarding CSC: first, the stock yields 2.2% – much better than you’ll find with the average large-cap tech stock. Second, the company is cash-rich and is frequently mentioned as a target of a buyout. Betting on a takeover is always a dicey proposition, but CSC offers investors a solid risk-reward tradeoff even without the benefit of a buyout.
Keep in mind: The last time CSC’s P/E was at this level, the stock traded up 25% in less than two months.
A maker of printers, ink, and imaging products, Lexmark has seen its shares come under heavy selling pressure since late 2010 – a trend that wasn’t helped by its May earnings miss. While the printing business is indeed in gradual decline, it may finally be time to say “enough is enough” regarding the downturn in Lexmark’s share price. After hitting a high above $47 in mid-October, the stock now stands at $28.62. At this level, the stock trades at forward P/E of less than 7x, and removing the net cash of $7 a share (about a quarter of its market cap) on its balance sheet brings the P/E below 5.5x. A low P/E can be a trap when growth is slowing, of course, but the company’s core ink business continues to generate substantial free cash flow. And like CSC, Lexmark has the added benefit of being a strong candidate for an eventual takeover.
Keep in mind: The recent selloff has driven LXK’s valuation to its lowest level in history.
China Digital TV
The smallest of the three companies discussed here, China Digital could offer big potential to patient investors. The company makes smart cards that allow the conversion of an analog signal to digital. A boring business perhaps, but consider that China is the world’s largest TV market with 377 million viewing households. Of these, 187 million have cable and only 90 million currently have a digital signal. This adds up to a stellar growth opportunity for a company with no debt and over 70% of its market cap accounted for by the $214 million of cash on its balance sheet. The stock trades for less than 7x 2012 earnings estimates and a PEG of just over 0.4. Chinese stocks are not without risk, as 2011 has taught us, but patient investors who tune into STV may be in for quite a show.
Keep in Mind: Like LXK, CSC trades at an all-time low P/E.
Technology investing has been no picnic for investors thus far in 2011, but these stocks provide a compelling margin of safety in the event of further volatility in the months ahead.