FMC and Corteva Are 2 Stocks to Help Counter Agricultures Lost Year – Barron’s

Posted: October 20, 2019 at 8:57 am


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Baird upgraded shares of agricultural seed and chemicals provider FMC to Buy from Hold on Wednesday, believing the companys new products will drive profit growth.

In a sense, Baird thinks FMCs future isnt dependent on the economy or the weather. That is a useful observation for investors worried about a slowing global economy. FMCand peer Corteva may offer investors some protection from the macroeconomic factors vexing markets.

Analyst Ben Kallo increased his FMC (ticker: FMC) price target by $9, to $95 a share, 13% higher than recent levels. FMC shares were moving on the upgrade, rising 2.6% to $85.19 late morning Wednesday, better than the 0.1% decline of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Near-term growth profile for diamides portfolio favorable, in our view, enabled by a substantial patent estate, Kallo wrote in a Wednesday research report. That is a mouthful, but it means the company has new products that can drive sales and earnings growth despite what happens with the economy. (Diamides are a category of insecticides farmers use for pest control.)

It isnt just the economy that agriculture investors must wrestle with. The weather hasnt cooperated in 2019, either. Too much rain in the spring and early snow in autumn has hurt U.S. crops, causing volatility for farmers as well as agricultural traders.

Still, there are ways to win in agribusiness, despite the vagaries of climate. Agricultural chemical companies such as FMC, as well as peer Corteva (CTVA), invest heavily in research and developmentin much the same way drug companies doto produce patent-protected products that can drive higher growth and higher profit margins.

Patent protection is one reason agriculture-input stocks have traded for above-average valuation multiples. Dont forget, Monsanto was purchased by Bayer (BAYN.Germany) in 2018 for more than 16 times trailing earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda. And Syngenta was purchased by a Chinese company in 2016 for about 17 times Ebitda.

Barrons wants to know your thoughts on the market, the economy, and the political landscape. Results will be published at the end of October along with results of our fall 2019 Big Money Poll of institutional investors. Take the Barrons reader poll here.

FMC is trading for less than 12 times estimated next years Ebitda, in line with other industrial assets in the S&P 500. FMC peer Corteva trades for about 10 times estimated 2020 Ebitda.

Kallo isnt alone in searching out so-called self-help stocks.

We continue to prefer nitrogen-levered [ CF Industries (CF)] and [ Yara (YAR.Norway) as well as] self-help ag-chemsFMC and [Corteva], wrote BMO analyst Joel Jackson in an earnings preview report published in September. Focusing on such stocks is one way Jackson see to combat a lost year for agriculture. He rates FMC shares the equivalent of Buy and has a $100 price target.

Barrons recently wrote positively about FMC, believing that new products can boost profit in the future. Since that article was published, FMC is up about 18%, better than the 6% gain of the Dow over the same time.

Write to Al Root at allen.root@dowjones.com

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FMC and Corteva Are 2 Stocks to Help Counter Agricultures Lost Year - Barron's

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October 20th, 2019 at 8:57 am

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