Buying any stock following a double-digit fall in its share price may be seen as risky. Clearly, there has been negative news flow either regarding the stock or the industry in which it operates. However, for long-term investors it may also present an opportunity. That's especially the case where the company in question trades on a low valuation and has upbeat forecasts over the medium term.
A difficult year
Falling over 10% on Wednesday was lending specialist International Personal Finance(LSE: IPF). Its shares declined by such a large amount following the release of its full-year results, which showed a fall in pre-tax profit of around 20%. This reflected lower home credit profit and higher investment in IPF Digital, which was partially offset by positive foreign exchange adjustments. Customer numbers decreased by 2% and while the amount of credit issued rose by 8% and revenue increased by 1%, the company's overall performance was disappointing.
IPF faced regulatory challenges in Europe, particularly in Poland. Performance in its Mexican home credit business was below its original expectations. Furthermore, it expects the competitive and regulatory environment to remain challenging in its major markets, which means its financial performance could come under further pressure in 2017.
Although IPF is expected to record a further fall in earnings of 3% this year, its outlook for 2018 is much more positive. Its investment in IPF Digital and its Mexican business is forecast to deliver a rise in earnings of 11%. This has the potential to create a step change in investor sentiment, with the market likely to warm to what could prove to be a successful turnaround.
Despite this potential for improved performance, IPF trades on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 5.5. This is low on an absolute basis, but also when compared to its historic average P/E ratio from the last four years. During that time, the company's rating has averaged 11.8. Assuming it is able to meet its forecasts in 2017 and 2018, a reversion to its historic average P/E ratio would see the company's shares rise in price by around 132%. While this may sound optimistic, even factoring-in a margin of safety means IPF could prove to be a strong performer over the medium term.
Of course, other lending companies offer more stable performance than IPF. For example, Provident Financial (LSE: PFG) has recorded double-digit earnings growth in four of the last five years and is expected to deliver growth in its net profit of 5% this year and 9% the year after. As such, it seems to have a lower risk profile and may prove to be a less volatile stock to own than IPF.
Furthermore, Provident Financial also has upside potential. It trades on a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 1.7, which indicates that its shares offer good value for money and a margin of safety. However, given IPF has a PEG ratio of just 0.5, it seems to be the stock with the greatest profit potential. While both companies could be worth buying for the long term, IPF seems to be the most enticing option at the present time.
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Peter Stephens has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.