It goes without saying that if a tech stock trades at dirt-cheap multiples, its story probably isn't squeaky-clean. That especially holds when the Nasdaq remains up about 60% over the last two years.
But if an investor is willing to tolerate a less-than-perfect story and the measure of risk that comes with it, there are some potential diamonds in the rough out there. That's particularly so following a tech correction that has often been harsh to companies with less-than-perfect stories.
Here are three names that bargain-hunting tech investors willing to stomach some near-term choppiness might want to consider.
1. Juniper Networks
Valuation: Juniper (JNPR) trades at 12 times a 2019 EPS consensus of $2.14. And after backing out $900 million in net cash, shares trade for just 1.8 times a 2019 revenue consensus of $4.9 billion. They also sport a 2.9% dividend yield, following a recent dividend hike.
Why it's cheap: Juniper was clocked last week after providing soft Q1 guidance to go with a Q4 beat. The company blamed architectural changes being implemented by major cloud data center clients that are weighing on demand for its MX series edge routers (Arista Networks (ANET) , which has seen strong uptake for switches that integrate routing functionality, is likely a beneficiary).
Depressed telecom and cable capex is also a headwind for Juniper. And the company's security hardware business continues facing stiff competition from Cisco Systems (CSCO) , Palo Alto Networks (PANW) and others.
Why it might be worth buying: While the MX series is under pressure, Juniper insists demand remains strong among cloud giants for its innovative PTX series core routers, which deliver high routing densities and can also integrate optical transport functions. That, along with growing sales for Juniper's Ethernet switches and networking software solutions to telcos and smaller cloud providers, positions the company reasonably well as cloud-related capex keeps growing rapidly.
There also might be some light at the end of tunnel for telecom capex, as 5G network rollouts start in earnest next year. In the near-term, the fact that AT&T (T) , a major Juniper client, plans to raise its capex by 16% in 2018 to $25 billion could provide a bit of a reprieve. And going forward, EPS will benefit from the launch of a new $2 billion stock buyback program, of which at least $750 million will be spent in Q1.
2. Cirrus Logic
Valuation: Cirrus (CRUS) trades for 11 times a fiscal 2019 (ends in March 2019) EPS consensus of $3.95, and (after backing out $400 million in net cash and investments) just 1.5 times a fiscal 2019 revenue consensus of $1.56 billion.
Why it's cheap: When Apple's (AAPL) sales come under pressure, one can count on Cirrus' sales doing the same, given that well over half of the chipmaker's revenue comes from shipments of audio codec and amplifier chips used within iPhones, iPads and related accessories. A few days after Apple issued light March quarter sales guidance, Cirrus missed December quarter estimates and offered a soft March quarter outlook. The company also forecast its revenue would be roughly flat in fiscal 2019, albeit while predicting sales would rise in calendar 2019.
The fact that Cirrus remains so dependent on Apple might also affect its valuation, since it's guaranteed that sales would plunge if Apple, which now designs quite a few of the chips going inside of its phones and tablets, started relying on home-grown audio codec chips. However, there's no sign right now that Apple has any such plans.
Why it might be worth buying: Demand for advanced mobile audio and voice experiences both acts as a competitive moat for Cirrus with Apple and top Android clients, and also presents some opportunities for growth. On the call, the company was upbeat about ramping sales of smart codecs -- they integrate a codec, a DSP and audio software -- and amplifiers to Android OEMs in 2019. It was also optimistic about growing sales of chips used in headphones with digital interfaces (rather than 3.5-millimeter headphone jacks), and landing design wins for voice biometric solutions that can authenticate a user based on his or her voice.
Cirrus also just added $200 million to its stock buyback, raising its available funds to $262 million. Given where its stock is currently trading, those funds could be used up quickly.
3. Western Digital
Valuation: Western Digital (WDC) trades for just 6.7 times a fiscal 2019 (ends in June 2019) EPS consensus of $12.54, a rock-bottom multiple even after accounting for $5.5 billion in net debt. Shares also sport a 2.4% dividend yield.
Why it's cheap: Western's hard drive business is staring at a long-term unit decline thanks to solid-state drive (SSD) cannibalization. In addition, investors are worried that Western's SanDisk unit will, following a strong 2017, be hurt by declining NAND flash memory prices later this year, as industry shipments of high-density 3D NAND chips surge.
Why it might be worth buying: Though its sales of PC and mission-critical hard drives will likely continue falling, demand is stronger for Western's high-density helium drives, which are beloved by heavy-spending cloud giants and also have a growing enterprise footprint. While Seagate (STX) is seeing some traction for its helium offerings following early stumbles, Western remains the leader in this space.
And while there's a good chance that NAND prices will drop later this year, it won't necessarily spell doom for SanDisk and other suppliers. Both because price declines could be offset by the manufacturing cost reductions provided by higher-density ( 64-layer and higher) 3D NAND chips, and because lower prices could serve as a boon for SSD penetration rates in the PC, enterprise and cloud storage markets. They could also motivate smartphone OEMs to boost storage capacities for high-volume models.