I am not an early adapter when it comes to technology. I avoided getting a cell phone far longer than most, especially those in finance and markets. I just did want to be that accessible. Once I got one, I stuck with just a basic phone for years. I did not need to play games, take pictures or get email on my phone as far as I was concerned. The only reason I ever got a flat screen TV was because my daughter was working for Shaper Image when they filed for bankruptcy and she got me one for the price of dinner and drinks at the corner pub. I eschewed GPS technology, finding my way around like all my male predecessors and driving around until I figured out where I was. I wrote bills by hand, put stamps on the envelope and went to the post office. As far as I was concerned the old ways were good enough for me. The only electronic service or store I used with any regularity was the Internet and Amazon. Then it happened -- I got a tech-savvy girlfriend. She immediately had me upgrade to a Blackberry touch-screen phone with bells and whistles that I am still trying to figure out. She took one look at my desk and almost passed out at the Luddite clutter. My kids helped as well. Being twenty -somethings, they do not call -- they text. They do not email, they leave messages on Facebook. The idea of a stamp strikes them as nostalgic and somewhat antiquarian on Dad's part. Between my kids and girlfriend, I am now a hi-tech guy. I pay my bills online. I send text messages. I even have a Facebook page. It all sets the stock guy in me to thinking about how reliant we have become on technology. Not only is it a tool, it is the new entertainment and I think this will become an ever-more dominant theme in the future. Naturally it occurs to me there has to be a way for us to make money at this. As a value investor, I spend a lot of time thinking about what businesses I want to buy when the market gives me the opportunity. Since I am in the camp that says we are going to see much lower prices before the year ends, exploring the idea of what type of tech stocks to buy is time well spent from my point of view.
Making a list
You need to have a list of what you want to buy before prices fall. I am big believer in doing homework in advance so I can respond to events without panic or pressure. One of my favorite stocks to consider when prices fall is Garmin (Nasdaq:GRMN). My son gave me one last Christmas and I have no idea how I lived without one so long. I take it on car trips and I take it when friends invite me boating. I have an idea of what it cost and it has paid for itself several times over already. Despite of how much I may like my new gadget, business is going to be terrible this year. Most analysts think that revenues for the personal navigation industry will decrease by about 25% in 2009 followed by modest growth in 2010. This may actually benefit Garmin since it is the leader by market share and have almost $1 billion in cash and no debt. The company will certainly survive the downturn but may be able to increase market share and make strategic acquisitions that fuel growth in the future. Right now the stock trades at 8 times trailing and 11 times expected earnings. It belongs on your watch list and is a prime candidate for selling cash secured puts on down drafts in the over all stock market.
More tech means more storage required
As technology moves forward and even the very latest adaptors like me begin to embrace it, the need for storage becomes larger. This favors a few companies that I like. I loved Seagate Technologies (Nasdaq:STX) last year at the bottom of the market. The stock fell far enough to be an accidental high yielder and it was on the top of my buy list for awhile. It is now on my bear buy list. Like Garmin, it is a stock that I think is excellent cash-secure put candidates on down days. The company is the leading manufacturer of disk drives. The company made some missteps, particularly in the lap top drive market but they have begun to make the corrections needed to maintain their leadership position in the market place. The company has more than enough cash to survive until end-market demand picks up, which I think will happen next year, and the stock should be bought when it sells off. EMC (NYSE:EMC) is another cash-rich company that belongs on your buy list. The company is the leader in enterprise data storage systems and software. The company is using depressed valuations in the industry to grow by acquisition. They recently used part of its better than $6 billion in cash to buy Data Domain (Nasdaq:DDUP), a leading provider of storage de-duplication services. The cost of integrating the two companies is expected to weigh on EMC shares and if it does I would be looking to buy stock in the company. The stock needs to come down in price to be an outstanding buy, but I think it will by the end of the year.
Do your homework now
Ben Graham was fond of saying that investing worked best when it was most business like. In my mind there are two applications to this principle. First, of course, is that any time you can buy assets for far less than the resale or liquidation value you should do so. Right now there are not many of these situations available. Second is being careful about which industries you invest in for the long term. Technology is an integral part of society now and while the near term is going to be work until the recession begins to unwind the storage for many segments of the technology industry is very bright. Although the rally off the March bottoms has taken most prices too far up, the time to be thinking of what businesses you want to be in as a long-term investor is now. They don't ring bells at the top or bottom, so you need to have a game plan and list of stocks and sectors you want to invest in beforehand. The time to do the homework is in advance. There simply will not be time once the market does drop.