Investing

4 Jefferies Value Stocks to Buy as Market Volatility Jumps in 2016

After years of relatively benign volatility, investors are getting a taste of something they are not very accustomed to. The Volatility Index (VIX) has been elevated since the start of the trading year, and with China, oil and other issues still stirring the pot, this could be the norm for the near future. One good idea is for investors to consider adding value stock to their portfolios.

Each week we cover the new value calls from the analysts at Jefferies, and increasingly some of the calls may look surprising, as some solid big blue chips companies are becoming so cheap on a multiple basis they are ending up in the value arena. This is the best of both worlds for investors, when large cap growth companies become inexpensive enough to have a value call.

Here are four of this week’s value stocks to buy from Jefferies. All are rated Buy.

Ally Financial

This is the old financing arm of GM that was known before the great recession as GMAC. Ally Financial Inc. (NYSE: ALLY) has been rebuilt into a stronger and more solvent Internet-focused bank with no brick-and-mortar locations. Its customers do their banking solely through the bank’s website, its mobile application and automatic teller machines.

Jefferies feels that in comparison to peers, though few are actually structured like Ally, the stock is very cheap. Trading at a low 7.05 times estimated 2016 earnings, and at a less than one times book value, the analysts think that there is room to run. Most on Wall Street feel that the stock should trade more like 1.25 times book value. And they feel that the bank is moving away from a dependence on GM and into a more balanced operating structure, which is good for long-term strategy.

With the capital structure optimized and management having diversified the origination’s platform ahead of expectations, the stock has tremendous value at current levels.

The Jefferies price target for the stock is $28. The Thomson/First Call consensus price target $26.94. Shares closed on Tuesday at $16.28.


Cigna

This is a solid value buy in health care insurance sector. Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI) is a major health services organization that provides insurance and related products and services in the United States and internationally. All products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna, including Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America, Cigna Life Insurance Company of Canada and their affiliates.

The health care giant offers an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, supplemental benefits and other related products, including group life, accident and disability insurance. Cigna maintains sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, and it has approximately 86 million customer relationships throughout the world.

The company is set to be bought by Anthem, and Jefferies sees the current price at a 15% discount to the takeout value, which is $188 per share. The analysts are bullish on Anthem and cite the company’s Medicare margin expansion, strong commercial margins and volume growth.

Cigna investors receive a tiny 0.03% dividend. The Jefferies price target is $184. The consensus target is $172.71. The stock closed most recently at $139.08.

WestRock

Last summer saw the merger of two top packaging and containers companies that could provide an outstanding opportunity for investors, as the stock has been absolutely mauled since the merger. WestRock Co. (NYSE: WRK) is the completed and merged entity that combined old Rock-Tenn and MeadWestvaco Corporation.

WestRock becomes the second-largest U.S. packaging company, valued at $10.7 billion, trailing only International Paper with a market capitalization of just under $15 billion. WestRock is expected to generate net sales of $15.7 billion and adjusted EBITDA of $2.9 billion. This includes the impact of $300 million in estimated annual synergies, to be achieved over three years.

Jefferies notes that the company announced a stock repurchase program last year of 40 million shares, or 15% of the shares outstanding. WestRock also announced a very generous 17% increase in the company dividend last year and could raise it again in 2016. Late last year the company saw a flood of investment from some of the top hedge funds, with as many as 41 adding the stock to their portfolios.

WestRock investors receive a very tempting 3.91% dividend. Jefferies has a $74 price target, while the consensus estimate is $70.56. Shares closed Tuesday at $38.35.

Western Digital

This long-time innovator in the storage industry is a leader in the total addressable hard disk drive (HDD) market. Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ: WDC) is an industry-leading developer and manufacturer of storage solutions that help to create, manage, experience and preserve digital content. It is responding to changing market needs by providing a full portfolio of compelling, high-quality storage products with effective technology deployment, high efficiency, flexibility and speed. Its products are marketed under the HGST and WD brands to original equipment manufacturers, distributors, resellers, cloud infrastructure providers and consumers.

The most compelling news is that the company made a stunning $19 billion purchase of SanDisk. This could be a strong addition to the Western Digital current offerings, and it could significantly benefit from SanDisk’s technology and portfolio leadership in the NAND flash semiconductor and enterprise flash systems market.

The drop-off in the personal computer business helps to spur initiative in the company’s cloud business, and analysts estimate that the company’s gross profit contribution from Business Critical (cloud) drives will exceed that of PCs by the second half of next year. Of all the stocks beaten down due to the poor PC environment, Western Digital may have the most upside potential, especially when Jefferies notes that in 2016 Enterprise HDDs will have an average three-year cost of $100 per year, versus $500 for NAND.

Investors receive a 3.82% dividend. Jefferies has a whopping $111 price target that is higher than the $94.96 consensus figure. Shares closed Tuesday at $52.36.


If there was ever a time to look for value in the markets it’s now. With multiples stretched and volatility spiking, we could be in for a rough ride, and these stocks may have a far better chance of riding the storm out.