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Volatility has returned to the stock market after being largely absent for the last several years. Some stocks have been pummeled along with the broader market, while others have earned higher valuations despite a wobbly Mr. Market. Of course, as seasoned investors know, there are buying opportunities in every market.
For very different reasons, now is the time to buy these stocks: pipeline operator Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. (NYSE:PAA), American solar leader SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR), and home gardening supplier Scotts Miracle-Gro (NYSE:SMG). Shares of each company have taken unique trajectories thus far in 2018, but all businesses have strong long-term potential that should reward patient investors.
Growing in America’s leading energy play
The Permian Basin is located primarily in West Texas, but it spills over the border into New Mexico. If the oil industry isn’t careful, then the geographic boundaries might not be the only thing spilling out. That’s because output growth in the region is threatening to increase total liquids production over the region’s combined pipeline, trucking, rail, and storage capacity. Many analysts have warned of a potential Permian bottleneck.
Luckily, those fears may be somewhat overblown, as quite a few pipeline extensions are coming online in the next few years. Plains All American Pipeline is currently constructing two growth projects, Cactus II and add-ons to its Sunrise pipeline, that will add some 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil takeaway capacity by the end of 2019. They will complement the company’s robust network in the Permian Basin and tackle a significant amount of the region’s expected crude oil production growth, which is expected to climb from 3.1 million bpd today to 4.25 million bpd by the end of 2020.
The company’s role in avoiding a Permian bottleneck has Wall Street slowly warming to the stock, which is up 18% year to date. Shares took a beating in recent years as the pipeline operator initiated a turnaround strategy to simplify its footprint and clean up its balance sheet. That reduced the payout from $2.76 per share in 2015 to $1.20 per share on an annualized basis today, although it currently yields a healthy 4.8%.
Nonetheless, with leverage targets close to being met and important growth projects on tap in the Permian Basin, Plains All American Pipeline should deliver profitable growth — and expand its distribution — in a few years’ time.
Tariffs? What tariffs?
Shares of SunPower have struggled for most of the last year due largely to the threat of tariffs on imported solar cells and panels. That imperiled the solar manufacturer because the bulk of its production is based in Asia, which means selling those panels in the United States would be accompanied by a steep premium.
In early 2018, tariffs became a reality. In mid-April, the company took matters into its own hands by gobbling up the American-based manufacturing assets of SolarWorld (which, ironically, played a leading role in getting tariffs enacted in the first place). Shares are now up 16% year to date.
The acquisition will give SunPower 430 megawatts of cell production capacity and 550 megawatts of solar panel production capacity in Oregon, boosting its total annual panel capacity 47% in one fell swoop. The company is looking to restart production at the idled facility soon and, over time, convert between 25% and 50% of panel capacity to produce its own P-series modules that are well-suited for utility installations. The facility could be profitable as soon as this year.
That would be great news for investors, especially considering SunPower hasn’t had a profitable year of operations since 2014. While that has a lot to do with accounting practices in the solar industry, the margin misery of 2017 also had a lot to do with one-time charges associated with bringing panels into the United States to avoid expected tariffs. With that risk now mitigated beyond the first half of 2018, the company can continue with its operational repositioning strategy — and perhaps even hasten progress.
Wall Street overreacts
Unlike Plains All American Pipeline and SunPower, Scotts Miracle-Gro isn’t having a 2018 to remember. Shares of the home gardening and lawn care specialist have been walloped by Mr. Market — down 23% year to date — over concerns of slowing growth for its high-growth hydroponics subsidiary Hawthorne.
To be fair, shares still boast a market-beating total return of 125% in the last five years, but that figure was over 180% at the beginning of 2018. Nonetheless, Wall Street’s concerns are overblown.
The sudden collapse in value this year occurred after management issued a relatively weak 2018 outlook for growth. The main culprit is expected sales unit volume declines from Hawthorne after the state of California dragged its feet on certain regulatory actions governing the marijuana industry, the main source of customers for the hydroponics business.
Management hasn’t batted an eye. Or maybe it forgot, since it’s busy focusing on the long-term trajectory of Scotts Miracle-Gro. The company recently announced the acquisition of Sunlight Supply, which will more than double the size of Hawthorne to over $600 million in annual sales. More importantly, it provides a direct sales channel to leverage the bevy of acquisitions it’s made over the years. Indeed, Sunlight Supply was responsible for distributing 20% of Hawthorne’s annual sales (excluded from the $600 million figure).
In typical fashion, Wall Street actually sent shares lower on the news after learning it could dilute adjusted EPS by up to $0.40 this fiscal year. But once again, that’s a short-term concern. Scotts Miracle-Gro plans to initiate a cost-savings program once the acquisition closes that will deliver up to $0.80 in adjusted EPS gains in fiscal 2019. Investors willing to focus on the long haul should be handsomely rewarded, especially as the 2.5% dividend yield increases over time.
There are opportunities in every market
Patient investors know that no matter what direction the market is traveling, there will always be opportunities to buy shares of great businesses that can grow over time. Despite the return of volatility in early 2018, there’s good reason to consider staking out a position in Plains All American Pipeline, SunPower, and Scotts Miracle-Gro. That’s true even in light of healthy share price growth for the first two, and a lack of respect for the latter.