This stock is a hidden gem, but with enough momentum to warrant your immediate attention.
Government charteredFederal Agricultural Mortgage or Farmer Mac (AGM) - Get Report is a small-cap stock that promises stable growth-friendly dividends at a bargain valuation. For investors seeking value in this difficult market, this is a great buy.
Farmer Mac is the stockholder-owned business entity created to harness capital and enhance lender competition, in aid of the American agricultural and rural communities. Lenders of all sizes and capacities use Farmer Mac's portfolio of loan products (delivering multiple financial choices to their rural customers).
The company continues to enlist new banks for loan purchase and credit protection products. Farmer Mac envisages robust attention for Farmer Mac equity AgVantage financing from existing and potential new counterparties. It's also striving to grow the rest of its institutional credit line of business towards attracting new agricultural lenders.
Farmer Mac's net income growth (three-year average) of 42.4% is well ahead of the industry average (15.6%). The company's earnings-per-share (EPS) growth (Dec. 2016) at 9.70%, as projected by analysts, is also ahead of industry's 8.5%. While the last five years have seen EPS on a negative swing, analysts suggest that Framer Mac will post 8% EPS growth every year for the next five years.
To top it all, the stock is available at just 7.1 times forward earnings -- making Farmer Mac a very attractive investment opportunity for your retirement portfolio.
Peer stocks in the credit services industry like American Express Co. (11.1 times), Discover Financial Services (8.7 times), Fifth Street Finance Corp. (7.6 times), SLM Corp. (7.6 times) and Moody's Corp. (16.4 times) are valued higher than Farmer Mac.
Also, keep in mind, that the S&P 500 is valued at 17.25-times forward earnings. This is a significant valuation gap for a company that's expected by analysts to post close to double-digit EPS growth for 2016. It's likely that this discount gap will narrow down eventually -- and therein lies Farmer Mac's unrealized reservoir of value.
Additionally, Farmer Mac's core investment story must also be taken into consideration.
The company has had low delinquencies, a good record of historical credit losses, and access to low cost funding advantages. Farmer Mac is also well placed to meet the worldwide demand for agricultural products and possesses a history of annual core earnings return on equity, in the range of 15% to 25%.
Not only can Farmer Mac benefit from increasing industry volumes and healthy credit scenarios, but can also benefit from loss protection and boosted demands as a result of tighter credit conditions when the market is witnessing a slump.
And finally, the company offers a solid opportunity to benefit from rising dividends. Quarterly dividends have been hiked or maintained since 2009. Annual dividends have grown from 20 cents in 2011 to 64 cents in 2015 -- an over three-fold upswing.
The company's dividend payout ratio is below 20%, which shows its ability to offer dividends and propel future hikes, going forward.
Clearly, Farmer Mac has a lot going for it -- efficient numbers, a strategic blueprint and an intricate understanding of its market.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.