More Bargains From 'Double Net' Land

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In Friday's column , I revealed the inner workings of a deep-value investor's mind as it pertains to companies trading relatively cheap to net current assets.

While I listed a handful of names that currently fit the criteria for what I refer to as "double nets," there are many others. As previously mentioned, this list is dominated by technology companies, but just because they are cheap relative to net current assets does not make them screaming buys.

Many tech-related companies have appeared to be cheap on a whole host of different metrics for much of the past few years, and they've continued to trade that way. In my view that has a great deal to do with the state of the global economy, and that trend may continue into the foreseeable future.

But it never hurts to probe the depths of deep-value land for smaller names that are cheap, and may reap the rewards of a pickup in economic activity.

Among the bigger names is $1.4 billion market cap company MKS Instruments ( MKSI), which makes process control systems used to measure and analyze manufacturing performance. MKS currently trades at 1.82 times net current asset value, and 1.38 times price to book value per share.

As is the case with many of the most intriguing double nets, the company's balance sheet is very strong. MKS ended the latest quarter with $606 million, or $11.50 per share in cash and short-term marketable securities, and no debt. That's a remarkable amount of cash for a company trading in the $26 range.

Recent results for the company have demonstrated some weakness; third-quarter revenue of $177.4 million missed consensus estimates by $10 million, and earnings per share (35 cents) missed by 2 cents. Still the company is profitable, and trades for 15 times trailing earnings and 18 times the 2013 consensus estimate.

It's not exactly cheap on a price/earnings basis, but besides the great balance sheet there is another factor that makes MKS interesting: the company's dividend.

Monday, MKS announced a 7% increase in the quarterly dividend, to 16 cents per share, for an indicated yield of 2.4%. When I see companies raising dividends , it signals to me that management is confident about the future. A little confidence can go a long way, and the company's balance sheet is strong enough to see it to better economic times.

MKSI Chart MKSI data by YCharts

Other tech-related names that are "double nets" include telecommunications networking product name Tellabs ( TLAB) , which is currently trading at 1.2 times net current asset value.

Not currently profitable on a trailing 12-month basis, the company has $1.12 billion, or $3.05 per share, in cash and marketable securities, and $181 million in debt. Unprofitable technology companies are typically not my cup of tea, but given the large amount of cash and securities relative to the current price ($3.34), I'll be watching this one.

TLAB Chart TLAB data by YCharts

Other technology-related double nets include Kulicke and Soffa Industries ( KLIC), Scan Source ( SCSC), Power-One ( PWER) Inc (PWER), Park Electrochemical ( PKE) and Tessera Technologies ( TSRA).

While double net land is currently dominated by tech names, there are some non-tech names, including aluminum wheel manufacturer Superior Industries ( SUP), workforce solutions provider Kelly Services ( KELYA), footwear retailer Shoe Carnival ( SCVL) and golf company Callaway ( ELY), to name a handful.

Callaway is a name I recently gave up on after having owned it for the past few years. The company's "recovery" has been pushed further and further into the future, and I finally gave up and moved on. Sometimes stocks appear cheap for legitimate reasons.

At the time of publication the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.