Navios Maritime Holdings Inc. (NM), Big 5 Sporting Goods Corporation (BGFV), The Female Health Company (FHCO): Small Caps That Promise Big Returns

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Big 5 Sporting Goods Corporation (NASDAQ:BGFV)A portfolio should always have a small cap, one that promises big profit and could soon grow into a mid-cap. Finding one that fits the bill isn’t always easy, but these three could reward a little extra due diligence.

A bottom in on the Baltic?

The Motley Fool CAPS screener looked for small-caps with low price/ book, low P/E, five or more Wall Street Outperforms, gross margin over 25%, and three year EPS growth rate of 10%-plus. Only one name popped up of 1,284 small caps, Greek shipper Navios Maritime Holdings Inc. (NYSE:NM). Like most shipping stocks it offers a decent yield at 4.1%.

Dry bulk shippers have seen significant declines as demand for iron ore, grain, fertilizer, and building materials ebbs and flows. Shippers are dependent on a thriving global economy and especially, a prosperous Chinese economy.

A common misconception is that the Baltic Dry Index moves rates when it is the other way around; charter rates make up the dry index and are a leading economic indicator. The BDI is also partly impacted by the price of oil for fueling drybulkers.

Its average charter out rate for its core fleet was $18,907 daily for 2012, and is expected to grow to $30,343 a day for 2014. Its vessel operating expenses are 23% less than the industry average.

Calling a bottom in the BDI isn’t easy. It is running at lows unseen since 2002, yet Navios Maritime Holdings Inc. (NYSE:NM) is trading near its 52-week high of $5.99. Shipping stocks are volatile and speculative in nature, but this one has a trailing P/E of 4.2 with 10% EPS growth, a price/book of 0.51, and gross margin of 33.9%.

However, this name has a huge debt load with a debt/equity ratio of 105%. Credit is a very real problem for many Greek shippers with their own country’s banks turning their back on them. However, Navios Maritime Holdings Inc. (NYSE:NM) has a strategic partnership in place with HSH Nordbank AG to lend it money to buy four used dry bulk ships at yard sale prices for a combined $66 million.

Whether you see the glass of ouzo half full or half empty, this could be a good thing, investing in the enterprise when others are fearful. The company has created a strategic partnership with a major Japanese shipowner, calling the joint venture Navios Asia LLC. Navios Asia will purchase six ships for a total of $114 million. This will grow its existing fleet of 58 ships.

Like airlines, ships have maintenance costs and the newer the better. Navios Maritime Holdings Inc. (NYSE:NM) has justified this shipping shopping spree with the relative age of these ships at 6.1 to 7.8 years old to better compete against rivals like DryShips and Eagle Bulk Shipping.

Analysts expect a 16% growth rate for the next five years and Navios Maritime Holdings Inc. (NYSE:NM) has managed to keep paying out its dividend throughout the worst of the perfect storm of drying credit and tanking shipping rates, which saw many competitors go under.

A small-cap play on guns

An interesting retailer, in time for back to school season, is Big 5 Sporting Goods Corporation (NASDAQ:BGFV), with 414 stores in 12 western states. A small cap with a yield of 1.60%, it has a trailing P/E of 23.97 (not unusual for retail) and is trading pennies shy of its 52-week high. It has a PEG of 1.21, so one might want to wait for a pullback for a fairer value.

The company reports Q2 earnings on July 30. Q1 results were very strong (they’ve obviously been working out!) with same store sales up 10.5%, expanding margins with the gross profit margin at 32.7%, and both EPS and revenue exceeding guidance.

CEO Steven Miller said, “Net income for the first quarter of fiscal 2013 was $7.5 million, or $0.34 per diluted share, compared to net income of $156,000, or $0.01 per diluted share, for the first quarter of fiscal 2012.We believe these results for the quarter reflect the ongoing enhancements to our merchandise and marketing programs and the continued benefit from the national increase in demand for firearms and ammunition products.”

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