Stratasys, Ltd. (SSYS): Has 3D Printing Fallen Just Far Enough To Buy?

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Sentiment has turned sharply against the 3D printing sector over the last month, as investors have grown concerned about the industry’s ability to capture large-scale manufacturing contracts. Even analysts who believe in the long-term potential of 3D printing have downgraded companies like 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) while pushing back the time before they are expected to start earning significant profits.

But JPMorgan thinks some of the sentiment has gone too far and that now is a good time to buy Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS), down to $107 from recent highs of $127, having lost 21% so far this year.

JPMorgan upgrades Stratasys, maintains PT

“We are upgrading Stratasys to Overweight from Neutral; no change to estimates or 2014 year-end Price Target of $125.00,” writes JP Morgan analyst Paul Coster in a March 24 report. “We believe Stratasys is best-in-class pure-play and therefore a core holding for tech growth investors.”

Coster sees a good chance for investors to get a ~17% return on the stock this year, and would still avoid 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD). Even though it has also fallen from $96 at the turn of the year to $58 now, 3D Systems is still up 84% over the last year compared to Stratasys, Ltd.’s (NASDAQ:SSYS) 43% growth. SSYS is trading at a 34x PE multiple, down from nearly 50x in December, so Coster is still forecasting that the company will have strong growth in the near future.

Stratasys has impeccable balance sheet: Coster

Along with concerns about the maturity of 3D printing technology, analysts have also been worried about the ability of new startups to steal market share from established companies. 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) in particular will see some of its patents expire soon. Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) had a narrow earnings miss last quarter, which sent its stock price down 3% and started the recent slide, but it guided for a strong 2014 with the expectation that the acquisition of MakerBot will help earnings growth.

Coster also argues that Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) is a best-in-class company that may be stealing market share from its competitors, not losing it to new entrants.

“Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) has established a sustainable competitive advantage in the 3D space owing to scale, brand, distribution and technology leadership,” Coster writes. “The balance sheet is impeccable and we sense that the firm has a strong leadership team.”

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