The last two years have been turbulent on Wall Street. The inflation crisis left many business sectors disrupted, and the release of ChatGPT started an artificial intelligence (AI) boom in the middle of that unstable situation. Yesteryear's market darlings and blue chips are down. A new batch of favorites have taken their place. Everything you thought you knew about the stock market suddenly looks obsolete.
But some things never change. The best way to make money in stock investments is by finding great companies whose stocks are undervalued. Buy low and sell high (or hold forever, watching your wealth build over time). And it's easy to find incredible stocks at a deep discount right now.
Read on to see how media giant Walt Disney (DIS -3.62%) and freelance services specialist Fiverr International (FVRR -0.34%) fit the bill. If you have $1,000 of investable cash to spare, these two stocks look like great long-term investments today. Diversify with both, or champion just one — either way, Fiverr and Disney are priced to please.
The House of Mouse never looked so affordable
I'll be the first to admit that Walt Disney is facing some serious challenges.
- Aging media outlets such as the ABC broadcast network and the ESPN sports channel aren't the cash cows they used to be, and Disney is reportedly seeking buyers for some of these assets. Rumor has it that the company has discussed both complete and partial sales, though no firm deals are on the table yet.
- The TV issues stretch all the way to India. The market-leading Star network doesn't look so dominant anymore after losing the broadcast rights to Indian Premier League cricket.
- The loss of cricket rights also undermined the Disney+ Hotstar streaming service. In the recently reported fiscal third quarter, 12.5 million Hotstar customers signed off, largely due to the lack of professional cricket. As a result, the total number of video-streaming clients fell by 11.7 million names, or 5%.
So I understand if some investors are feeling queasy about Disney's future prospects. The TV business is crumbling and the digital streaming alternative hasn't picked up the slack. Put that Disney share down and back away slowly!
Many Disney investors have done exactly that. The stock is trading 58% below the all-time high of early 2021. The price also sits just 6% above a multiyear low of $79.75. That low-water mark is only a week old.
And that brutal price drop went more than a few steps too far. Disney's stock is dramatically undervalued nowadays.
First, I wouldn't mind Disney modernizing its portfolio of products and services. Linear TV subscribers (cable, satellite, broadcast) are going all-digital at an alarming rate and the cord-cutting trend isn't going away. Finding buyers for legacy services like ESPN and ABC would accelerate Disney's quantum leap into cyberspace.
Second, it's no fun to lose more than 10 million streaming subscribers in one of the world's largest economies. However, Disney+ Hotstar is also the company's least lucrative streaming platform. Domestic Disney+ subscribers pay an average subscription fee of $7.31 per month. The average monthly fee for the Hotstar version is $0.59. If you have to lose lots of subscribers somewhere, this particular market doesn't hurt too much.
And other streaming services are holding their own with flat or rising subscriber counts in the third quarter. And don't forget about the Disney parks, experiences, and products division, whose third-quarter sales increased by 13% year over year. Ticket sales are booming at the international parks and cruise ships.
Disney's stock is trading within a stone's throw of price levels last seen in the fall of 2014. Over the same time span, trailing revenue is up by 80% and the company's central strategy is evolving as we speak. CEO Bob Iger had to patch a plethora of mistakes made during ex-CEO Bob Chapek's reign, and these things take time.
So I recommend buying Disney stock hand over fist while the low share prices last. You won't find Mickey Mouse in Wall Street's bargain bin very often.
Fiverr: More than meets the eye
Freelance services wrangler Fiverr is perhaps the most misunderstood company I know. First, Fiverr bears expected the business to wither at the end of coronavirus lockdowns. Then, they expected generative AI tools to make human freelancers in creative endeavors obsolete. The first end-of-the-world prediction was demonstrably wrong, and I think Fiverr will benefit from generative AI systems in the long run.
It's true that Fiverr's top-line growth has slowed down in recent quarters. That's a really common story, though. Let's have a look at Fiverr's revenue growth over the last three years, in comparison with two closely related businesses:
Advertising expert PubMatic and online game platform provider Roblox cross paths with Fiverr quite often. Thousands of freelancers are ready to provide digital art, solve programming issues, or even design entire Roblox games for a reasonable fee. Likewise, targeted ad campaigns and the digital assets that make them work are widely available on the Fiverr market. So it makes sense that these three companies showed similar top-line responses to the global inflation crisis. An economic crunch is not the best time to invest big money in ambitious ad campaigns or launch potentially moneymaking games — there's not enough end-market interest to make it work.
The inflation-based downturn won't last forever, though. Purse strings will loosen when the inflation monster is put to bed, letting companies like Fiverr get back to high-octane revenue growth. And don't forget that this company already generates generous cash profits. Fiverr's free cash flow added up to $46 million over the last four quarters, which is a generous 13.5% of total sales over the same span. These cash profits should soar in a more normal business environment.
As for the generative AI threat, let me just point out that creative AI processes still require a lot of human input. Sure, ChatGPT is capable of writing some decent text and DALL-E 2 can generate stunning images — but only with the right input prompts and a human selecting the best bits from the AI-generated output. That's still a game-changing dose of human influence.
Thus, Fiverr provides a vibrant marketplace for freelancing AI experts. The company takes this opportunity seriously, and I expect AI-managing services to contribute significant sales in the long run.
Yet, Fiverr's stock price has fallen more than 90% from the lofty peak of early 2021. Thanks to the perceived AI challenge, the plunge includes a 24% price drop over the last year.
So we are looking at a perfectly healthy business with tremendous long-term growth prospects, just champing at the bit until the economy can drive rising interest in its digital freelancer services. Meanwhile, Fiverr's stock trades at just 12.6 times forward earnings projections and 3 times trailing sales. It's a high-growth wolf in fire-sale sheep's clothing.