With the ASX being volatile at the present time, now could be a great time to buy high quality companies trading at attractive prices. One such stock is Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES). Its share price has fallen by almost 2% since the turn of the year and it now trades on a price to sales (P/S) ratio of 0.74, which is lower than the ASX’s P/S ratio of 1.38 and also less than the wider retail sector’s P/S ratio of 0.88.
Clearly, Aussie retailers are under close scrutiny at the present time after Dick Smith Electronics went into receivership, but in Wesfarmers’ case it appears to be relatively stable. Not only are its retail divisions such as Coles performing well, with quarterly sales figures showing growth across Wesfarmers’ retail portfolio, but it also offers a high degree of diversification through its conglomerate structure. This means that even if the Aussie consumer outlook deteriorates, Wesfarmers’ other divisions such as fertilisers, chemicals and energy services could help to pick up the slack.
Moreover, with the Aussie economy performing better than expected according to the recent economic data, the retail sector could have a better 2016 than is currently being priced in. On that front, Wesfarmers is forecast to increase its net profit by 7.9% in the next financial year which, alongside a dividend yield of 4.9% (fully franked) and upward rerating potential, indicates that its shares could reverse their decline of the last year and beat the ASX in 2016 and beyond.
Similarly, toll road and tunnel operator Transurban Group (ASX: TCL) also has upbeat earnings growth prospects, with its bottom line being forecast to rise at an annualised rate of 67% over the next two years. This helps to put Transurban on a price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio of just 0.7, which is a little over half of the ASX’s PEG ratio of 1.37.
Looking further ahead, Transurban is likely to benefit from increased congestion in major cities and, with the price of Brent oil being at its lowest level in a decade, car journeys are likely to remain highly popular even if the economy endures a difficult period.
Furthermore, with Transurban having international operations as well as those in Australia, it has a degree of diversification which is likely to protect it against a worsening in the macroeconomic outlook. Plus, with the Aussie dollar being relatively weak, it could gain a boost from a favourable exchange rate, too.
In addition, Transurban recently completed the purchase of the Airportlink M7 in Brisbane for $1.9bn and, while it has stated that no further acquisitions in Australia are in the pipeline, it is focused on increasing profitability in the coming years through major projects such as the $5.5bn Western Distributor project in Victoria.
And, as its track record of recording a rise in net profit of 15.5% per annum during the last 10 years shows, Transurban remains a relatively reliable growth play which, with a beta of just 0.88, could prove to be less volatile than the wider index in 2016.
Despite their appeal, there are 3 other ASX stocks that I believe could outperform Transurban and Wesfarmers.
In fact, they have recently been named as The Motley Fool's 3 Top Blue-Chips For 2016 and could make a real impact on your bottom line as we move through the year. As a result, it's well worth finding out more about them.
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Motley Fool contributor Peter Stephens has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.