Just when you thought the market couldn’t get any weirder, all of a sudden we seem to be on the precipice of another financial crisis.
Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bankhave already failed. Credit Suisse plunged after it disclosed material weaknesses in its financial reporting, and its biggest investor, the Saudi National Bank, said it wasn’t going to come to its rescue.
In such a market environment, buying the dip is becoming a popular strategy again, but it’s not just bank stocks that are down. Let’s take a look at the S&P 500‘s two worst performers from February to see if either of them offers a good buying opportunity.
1. Lumen Technologies (down 35%)
Lumen Technologies (LUMN -3.86%) was the S&P 500’s worst-performing stock of February, losing 35% after the telecom company formerly known as CenturyLink offered weak guidance in its fourth-quarter earnings report.
The Q4 results actually beat estimates as revenue fell 22% to $3.8 billion ahead of the consensus at $3.77 billion, and adjusted earnings per share of $0.43 topped expectations at $0.19.
However, the financial adjustments help explain why the stock plunged 21% on Feb. 8 after the report came out. In the quarter, the company took a goodwill impairment charge of $3.27 billion, showing that it overpaid for previous acquisitions, though it didn’t specify which ones.
The company also named Kate Johnson as its new CEO, completed a $7.5 billion divestiture of its 20-state incumbent local exchange carrier business, and said it would sell its Europe, Middle East, and Africa business to Colt Technology Services for $1.8 billion, all signs of a business in flux.
Those moves will help shore up its balance sheet, but the company still finished the year with $20.6 billion in debt and just $1.2 billion in cash.
For 2023, the company sees adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of $4.6 billion to $4.8 billion, down from $5.5 billion in 2022, and it sees free cash flow of just $0 to $200 million, a sharp decline from the $1.7 billion it recorded in 2022.
To make matters worse, the S&P is removing Lumen from the S&P 500 index as of March 20, which isn’t surprising as the stock has been a consistent loser over the last decade, falling more than 90% over the last 10 years, and is now worth just $2.6 billion.
Given the wide range of problems the company is facing and the challenging macro climate, Lumen seems best avoided at this point.
2. Moderna (down 21%)
Moderna (MRNA 1.46%), best known for its COVID-19 vaccine, was the S&P 500’s second-worst performer in February, and like Lumen Technologies, its earnings report was the culprit.
Moderna beat estimates on the top line, posting revenue of $5.08 billion, which was down from $7.2 billion as sales of its COVID vaccines declined, but that still topped expectations at $5 billion. Product sales in the quarter were down 30% to $4.9 billion.
Investors seemed disappointed with the bottom-line results as cost of sales increased 14 percentage points due to a $1.3 billion charge for an inventory write-down, and the company also stepped up research and development spending, which increased by 65% to $3.3 billion to cover clinical trial expenses, manufacturing expenses, and other costs focused on late-stage clinical studies for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), seasonal flu, and cytomegalovirus.
As a result, earnings per share fell from $11.29 to $3.61, missing estimates at $4.67.
Moderna reaffirmed its forecast of $5 billion in contracted COVID vaccine sales in 2023, however, investors seemed to be concerned that revenue and profits would continue to decline as the COVID windfall dries up. Additionally, its higher cost of sales is weighing on margins as it called for 35% to 40% in cost of sales expense in 2023.
In March, the company said it was planning to hire an additional 2,000 employees in 2023, a sign it’s investing in growth, and the company plans to establish a corporate presence on the West Coast with offices in the Bay Area and Seattle.
While 2023 could be a tough year for Moderna, analysts expect revenue from its flu and RSV vaccines to move the needle, and over the longer term, the company has the potential to produce blockbusters in areas like cancer, giving the stock significant upside potential.
Moderna is also buying back shares to take advantage of the beaten-down stock price. Given that, the recent sell-off could be a good buying opportunity for risk-tolerant investors.