As the S&P 500 flirts with record highs, low-priced stocks have become increasingly hard to find. However, not all stocks have experienced a recovery from the March 2020 lows, and investors can still find stocks with a lot of potential that sell for less than $10 per share.
1. Full House Resorts
Full House develops, owns, and operates five regional casinos in Colorado, Indiana, Mississippi, and Nevada. Like most casinos, it temporarily suspended operations amid the pandemic. It has also struggled to climb out of penny-stock status for years, as intense competition in its regional markets has limited profitability.
With customers beginning to return to the casinos, some investors are placing bets on this casino operator. In its 2020 fourth-quarter earnings report, Full House experienced only a modest revenue drop and a turn toward profitability -- revenue of $38.3 million represented only a 1% decline from year-ago levels. And the casino part of the business reported a 5% revenue increase, though its hotel and food and beverage divisions experienced declines. Nonetheless, Full House reported a $3.5 million profit for the quarter, up from a net loss of $4.1 million in Q4 of 2019.
Revenue fell by 24% for the full year of 2020. However, massive expense cuts at both the casino operations and other operations, which include online and mobile sports, helped the company turn an annual profit of $147,000. This represents quite a turnaround, considering that Full House lost more than $5.8 million in 2019.
Full House also generated $6.3 million in cash flow during that time. Though that's less than the $9.8 million in interest costs, the company holds $37.7 million in cash. Moreover, it has invested much of its cash back into the casinos, and that should bode well for the company long-term.
Such investments have already helped to boost the stock. In January, the stock accelerated higher as the company announced an expansion of its Bronco Billy's casino in Colorado. The optimism has taken Full House stock to the $8.50 per share range, an increase of more than 600% in the last 12 months.
Both the hotel and the food and beverage businesses will probably have to improve for the move higher to continue. Still, assuming the company can continue on its current path as the recovery from the pandemic continues, investors might keep hitting the jackpot with this consumer discretionary stock.
2. United Microelectronics
UMC operates foundries that build chips for every sector of the electronics industry. Since it competes in the shadow of larger rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the company has struggled for years to gain traction with investors, and trade wars hampered production in 2019. However, a focus on Japan and South Korea, as well as an overall increase in demand for chips, changed its fortunes. On the Q4 2020 earnings call, management announced that capacity utilization had reached 99%.
That demand helped boost the company's financials. For fiscal 2020, revenue increased 19% to $6.3 billion. This took net income higher by more than 200% over the same period to about $1 billion. A rise in gross margins from 14% to 22% helped boost income growth, as did limiting the increase of operating expenses to just 7%.
UMC also generated almost $1.4 billion in free cash flow. This positions the company to easily manage about $1.2 billion in outstanding loans and bonds and $343 million in dividend payments. Shareholders earned the equivalent of $0.14 per share in payout, a yield of about 1.5%. That comes in slightly above the 1.4% average dividend yield for the S&P 500.
However, the payouts pale in comparison to UMC's stock gains. After years of range-bound trading, UMC stock has finally begun to gain interest from investors. At just under $9.50 per share, it has risen by approximately 290% over the last 12 months.
The only major concern is the company's muted guidance. UMC only provided an outlook through the first quarter. Still, it expects 100% capacity utilization and gross margins in the mid-20% range, an increase from the 22% reported in 2020. Assuming chip demand can keep rising, UMC will probably not remain below $10 per share for long.
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