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15 Gritty Survivors Worth a Gamble

The stock is up 300% since then -- mostly in a slow and steady move, until Monday. And yet it's still dirt cheap, even by the standards of the low-margin air cargo business, with a price-to-sales ratio around 0.15 and a price-to-book value of under 0.25. It has traded in better times at a price-to-sales multiple of better than 1.0, so it has a lot of muddy water to slog through before anyone can complain it is overvalued.

Long-Odds Lucent

And then, of course, there is Lucent Technologies (LU), which has been in the intensive care unit almost as long as the bear has been growling. It has regularly made the list of the five companies most likely to declare bankruptcy.

Yet it keeps chugging along, laying off workers and executives, restructuring debt, throwing away divisions and dumping real estate, all the while developing new products for the next phase of the digital age. The stock may never even reach $10 again.

Yet, with a price-to-sales multiple of 0.75, bankruptcy staved off this long and both SEC investigations and shareholder litigations now in the rearview mirror, Lucent is probably an even bet to get back to the $5 range. But there's a catch, of course: Investors must decide to lift Lucent's sales multiple back closer to the 2 perch it held before the bubble began in the late 1990s. Lest you forget, it was at $5 as recently as last May.

Each of these names has its own survivor story, and perhaps more lasting trauma will emerge in coming months to dampen our appreciation. But at least consider celebrating the spirit of Aron Ralston by finding a place in your portfolio for companies that seem to be walking out of the desert alive.
Jon D. Markman is senior investment strategist and portfolio manager at Pinnacle Investment Advisors. While he cannot provide personalized investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes column critiques and comments at . At the time of publication, his fund was neither long nor short any stock mentioned in this column, but positions can change at any time.
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