AstraZeneca plc, SSE PLC & Legal & General Group Plc: Beautiful Bargains Or Value Traps?

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Today I'm looking at three FTSE 100 giants carrying ultra-low 'paper' valuations.

Medical marvel

To say that AstraZeneca(LSE: AZN) is a terrific bargain at current prices would be something of an understatement, in my opinion.

It can't be doubted that the pharma giant is likely to take a pasting from generic competitors for a little while yet. Indeed, the City expects AstraZeneca to suffer earnings declines of 6% and 2% in 2016 and 2017 respectively as key labels like Crestor and Nexium lose patent protection.

But I've great faith that AstraZeneca's revamped product pipeline -- centred on hot growth markets like diabetes, oncology and respiratory -- should light a fire under earnings in the longernterm. And a P/E rating of 14.7 times for the current period represents a great time to latch onto the drugs giant's improving growth outlook.

While near-term earnings are predicted to disappoint, dividends aren't. Predicted payouts of 280 US cents for this year and next produce a market-mashing yield of 4.7%.

Powering down

While power play SSE(LSE: SSE) is also being whacked by increased competition, I don't believe the company has what it takes to stage a stunning turnaround like AstraZeneca.

The London company saw its customer base slump by 300,000 accounts between March and December last year, to 8.28m, thanks to the steady rise of promotion-led, independent suppliers. And SSE has been unable to lift prices since November 2013 in the face of this severe competition.

Against this backcloth, the City expects earnings to more-or-less flatline right through to the end of fiscal 2018.

Sure, the company may deal on decent P/E ratings of 13.5 times and 13.7 times for this year and next. But I believe these figures still fail to fairly reflect the company's poor revenues outlook, not to mention the colossal capex costs required to keep the power flowing.

On top of this, SSE's fragile balance sheet also casts a shadow over its ability to meet dividend yields of 5.9% and 6% for the years to March 2017 and 2018 respectively, in my opinion.

Business is booming

Conversely, I reckon insurance play Legal & General(LSE: LGEN) will prove a lucrative stock selection for growth and income seekers in the near-term and beyond.

The company continues to enjoy surging popularity in established and emerging geographies alike, and saw assets under management leap 8% last year, to £746.1m. And Legal & General's emphasis on five key growth pillars, including ageing populations and increasing digitalisation, is also helping to drive new business flows.

The Square Mile expects Legal & General to keep its stunning growth story rolling with an 8% advance in 2016, resulting in a brilliant P/E rating of 11.7 times. And the multiple moves to just 10.9 times for next year due to a predicted 7% bottom-line rise.

And thanks to its exceptional cash-generative qualities -- net cash rose 14% last year to £1.26bn -- Legal & General carries vast dividend yields of 6% and 6.4% for 2016 and 2017. I believe the insurer is a sensational stock selection at current prices.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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