However, with valuation multiples extended—the forward P/E is at 19.5x—a good deal of optimism is priced in, and we think the bar has been raised for the rest of the year. While we believe the Federal Reserve is nearing the end of its tightening cycle, inflation is still elevated and the normalization process is likely to be gradual. Therefore, we expect interest rates to remain high for longer and the cumulative lag of monetary policy to usher in a period of subtrend economic growth over the course of the next year. In this more challenging growth environment ahead, we believe companies with self-help measures to enhance profitability are likely to be better positioned and rewarded by investors. With this report, we launch a self-help theme to capture these opportunities—mispriced companies with initiatives likely to increase margins and cash flows despite the uncertain macro backdrop. We focus on companies with clear and measurable goals, as well as catalysts that we believe will drive stock performance.
Our self-improvement framework focuses on three key buckets: restructuring, product portfolio optimization and capital use optimization.
1. Restructuring: Companies transforming their financial or operational structures to drive margins and cash flows. Changes might include supply chain improvements, inventory management, headcount rationalization, exiting or divesting underperforming businesses, as well as cost controls and other efficiency initiatives.
2. Product portfolio optimization: Companies focused on enhancing revenue streams. This might include streamlining product offerings, new product launches, expanding product offerings, and entering new verticals and geographies.
3. Capital use optimization: Companies dedicated to becoming better stewards of capital through capital expenditure discipline and/or increased payouts to shareholders via dividends and buybacks. We expect our list of self-help stocks to outperform the S&P 500 over the next 12–18 months as the companies capitalize on idiosyncratic opportunities.
To create our stock list, we screened for US companies with quantifiable self-help initiatives, with a focus on restructuring, product portfolio optimization, and capital utilization optimization. Next, we focused on companies that have a favorable outlook from either CIO Global Wealth Management (stocks rated Most Preferred or Bellwether) or UBS Global Research (stocks rated Buy or Neutral). Stocks not covered by UBS must have an S&P Quality rating of B+ or better or have a favorable consensus rating of at least three Buy or Buy/Hold opinions based on analyst ratings submitted to Street Opinions as reported by CFRA MarketScope. Finally, in coordination with the CIO US equity sector team, each stock was vetted to assess the outlook and determine suitability for this theme.
First, a significant macroeconomic downturn could adversely impact underlying demand for many of the companies on the list and thus overwhelm self-help initiatives. Second, execution missteps could delay or derail realization of self-improvement measures. Finally, each company on our stock list has its own idiosyncratic risks which may impact future performance.
Main contributors: Nadia Lovell, Nathaniel Gabriel, David Lefkowitz, Matthew Tormey, Michelle Laliberte
Reach out to your UBS Financial Advisor for a copy of the report "Investing in self-help."