Small-Cap Stars: Services Stocks

Michael Teague  |

Over the past year, consumers and businesses in the US have been confronted with a number of substantial and fairly unique contingencies that have puts limitations on spending ability.

First came the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, which was followed quickly by sequestration, and then a government shutdown capped by the threat of the nation defaulting on its debt, all of which has taken place against the backdrop of the threat of reduced stimulus spending out of the Federal Reserve. All of these factors have taken a bite out of the ability of individual consumers, families and businesses to spend money on whatever it is they need.

These conditions have created an uncertain environment for all economic sectors, and have left investors looking for new and better equity opportunities. Companies operating in the services sector have been under pressure as their clients or prospective clients rethink their budgets with a greater emphasis on saving rather than spending. Needless to say, some have managed better than others.

Thankfully, has just recently unveiled its Small-Cap Stars series. As a means of locating and scrutinizing some of the most promising investment opportunities in each sector of the economy,’s very own analysts have compiled a list of small-caps based on the most relevant, sector-specific fundamentals.

Our research analysts determined the following set of benchmarks for the most compelling small–cap companies in the consumer services sector:

Firm Value:  This barometer gauges the size and long-term health of a business.

Pre-Tax Operating Margins: Pre-tax operating income is one of the best barometers by which to assess the basic health of a business. A high margin is consistent with the theory that companies will perform better with extra pricing control.

Dividends: This metric is based on whether a company actually issues a dividend, as opposed to how much the dividend was. Dividends are counter-intuitive to companies in growth mode.

Market Debt/Equity: Companies obtaining capital through debt are likely healthier than companies raising capital through equity offerings because of the significantly more stringent requirements to access credit from banks.

Institutional Holdings:  Significant institutional ownership suggests a company’s potential is validated by major asset management firms, or the “smart money.”

A brief glance at the many companies that match up to these criteria should be sufficient to justify the worth of the methodology by which they were selected:

Phoenix New Media Limited (FENG) – The $888 million Chinese company is an internet and television content provider with that is very much at home in the all-important mobile segment. Its operations cover all types of content from news, to entertainment, to blogging, with operations limited for the time being to its home country. Founded in 2007, the shares for FENG are currently trading above $11 each, having gained 220 percent on the year.

Multimedia Games Inc. (MGAM) – The $945 million company designs and sells gaming machines primarily to casinos, including those located on Indian reservations in the US where restrictions on gambling are not as severe. The company is selling shares for over $32 each, having doubled in value so far this year on an overall advance of 122 percent.

Cumulus Media Inc. (CMLS) – The $977 million company is the owner and operator of commercial radio station clusters throughout the US. With over 500 stations in over 100 markets, the company makes the bulk of its revenues from selling advertising at the local, regional and national levels. Shares have more than doubled in value on a year-to-date basis (a gain of 107 percent), to the current price of $5.68.

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DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:

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