Heller: Dig Deep for Next Crop of Cheapies

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Last Friday's column featured results of a stock screen I've been using to identify stocks trading below tangible book value. The performance of these names has been better than expected, and as promised, today's column will reveal the current crop of stocks meeting the screens criteria, which included the following:

  • Trading below tangible book value
  • No financial names
  • Long-term debt to equity less than 50%
  • Companies must be profitable on a trailing 12 month basis
  • Minimum market cap $100 million

Not to sound like a broken record, but the cupboards are pretty bare; a recurring theme these days in most, if not all of the value related searches I utilize. In fact, there are just five names that qualify, and two of them are repeat offenders; both Rowan ( RDC) and Corning ( GLW) made the cut last time.

Corning continues to look interesting. It's the type of company that has seemingly made the transition from growth to value. Years ago, you would not have seen much interest in the name from the value crowd, but it's become difficult to ignore. The stock has done little for years; in fact it is now trading for about half of what it did five years ago.

Value investors may not care all that much about Gorilla Glass, per se, but it's hard to ignore the company that manufactures the product; hard to ignore a company trading at 10 times forward earnings, trading below tangible book value, yielding 2.8% . The company also has more than $6.1 billion, or $4.18 per share in cash and short-term investments. Although net margins are not as strong as they used to be, I can't complain about a company that bottom-lined 21.6% of profits during 2012. The company has also been buying back stock. I'm often a fan when companies buy back their stock and pay dividends.

Other qualifiers include Benchmark Electronics ( BHE), and OmniVision Technologies ( OVTI). Benchmark is a former net/net (company trading below its net current asset value), that seems to be a perennial qualifier in many of my value related screens. The company currently trades for 0.9 times tangible book value, and has $385 million or nearly $7 per share in cash. It's no longer a net/net, but still pretty close at 1.17 times net current asset value. BHE Price / Tangible Book Value Chart BHE Price / Tangible Book Value data by YCharts

Rounding out this rather short list is Coeur d'Alene Mines ( CDE). The Idaho based silver and gold mining name currently trades for 0.77 times tangible book value. Speaking of mining, that's akin to what value investing has become these days; and you have to dig very deep. CDE Price / Tangible Book Value Chart CDE Price / Tangible Book Value data by YCharts

At the time of publication the author is long GLW.

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

Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.

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