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Pure Play: What It Is And How It Benefits Investors

Last updated 04/30/2024 by

Dan Agbo

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A pure play company focuses solely on one type of product or service, making it an attractive choice for investors looking to maximize their exposure to a specific market segment. In this article, we’ll explore what pure play companies are, why investors prefer them, and how they can impact your investment strategy.

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Pure play: Understanding the basics

A pure play is a company that concentrates its operations exclusively on one type of product or service. This specialization sets them apart from multi-divisional corporations or conglomerates, which offer a wide range of products and services across various industries. For example, an investor interested in U.S. banking stocks might opt for shares of Bank of America (BAC) over Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) because the former solely focuses on banking, providing a more direct way to invest in that sector.
Pure play companies are, in essence, the specialists of the business world. They are dedicated to a single area of expertise, whether it’s producing a specific product or offering a unique service. This specialization allows them to excel in their chosen field and serve as a beacon for investors looking to make focused and calculated investment decisions.

Why investors prefer pure plays

Pure play companies have garnered attention from active investors seeking specific exposure to particular products or industry segments. Investing in diversified companies can lead to unnecessary risks in industries investors want to avoid. Pure plays enable investors to make targeted bets, reducing the risk of unwanted diversification.
When investors want to capitalize on a particular sector’s potential, they often turn to pure plays. These companies offer a direct avenue to invest in a specific industry, bypassing the complications of diversified corporations. For instance, if you believe in the growth of renewable energy, investing in a company exclusively focused on solar panel manufacturing provides a straightforward way to support your conviction.

The analyst’s advantage

Pure plays offer valuable data for analysts conducting comparable company or peer analyses. This data forms the basis for relative valuations, which rely on metrics such as the price-to-book (P/B) ratio, price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, price-to-sales (P/S) ratio, and price-to-cash flow (P/CF) ratio. Comparing pure play companies with one another is more straightforward, as they share a common focus. Conglomerates, on the other hand, pose challenges in this regard due to their diverse interests across various industries.
Analysts play a crucial role in dissecting the financial landscape. For them, pure plays are like a treasure trove of data. These companies offer precise insights into specific sectors, which analysts can use for meticulous assessments. They use metrics such as the P/B ratio to gauge the company’s book value, or the P/E ratio to evaluate its earnings potential. When comparing pure plays, analysts have the advantage of dealing with apples-to-apples comparisons, making their job more accurate and insightful.

Real-world example

Let’s consider a trader evaluating the U.S. banking sector. They compile a list of banking stocks with PB and PE ratios:
  • BB&T Corporation: PB of 1.28 and PE of 12.98
  • KeyCorp: PB of 1.06 and PE of 10.58
  • SunTrust Banks: PB of 1.16 and PE of 11.88
  • Citizens Financial Group: PB of 0.75 and PE of 9.59
Imagine a trader diving into the U.S. banking sector, searching for the most promising stocks. They’ve compiled a list, each entry featuring a company’s PB and PE ratios, crucial metrics for evaluating investment potential. This list includes BB&T Corporation, KeyCorp, SunTrust Banks, and Citizens Financial Group. What’s striking is that these stocks are relatively comparable, primarily focusing on regional banking. In essence, they are “pure plays” within the banking sector, making them an ideal starting point for the trader’s analysis.

The bottom line

Pure play companies offer a unique and focused approach to investing. Their dedication to a specific product, service, or industry makes them appealing to investors who seek direct exposure and a clear understanding of their investments. While the concept of pure play is sometimes used as an approximation, as nearly all companies have some level of cross-industry exposure, these specialized entities remain valuable tools for investors and analysts. Whether you’re a focused investor or a meticulous analyst, pure plays can streamline your path to financial success by reducing unnecessary diversification and offering precise data for well-informed decisions.
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
  • Reduced diversification risk
  • Targeted exposure to specific sectors
  • More straightforward comparative analysis
  • Higher specific risk due to sector dependence
  • Potential lack of diversification
  • Reliance on the success of a single industry

Frequently asked questions

What is a pure play company?

A pure play company focuses exclusively on one type of product or service, allowing investors to maximize their exposure to a specific market segment.

Why do some investors prefer pure plays?

Investors who want targeted exposure to particular sectors or industries prefer pure play companies because they reduce the risks associated with diversified investments.

What are the benefits of investing in pure play companies for analysts?

Analysts find pure play companies advantageous for conducting comparable company analyses. These companies provide more accurate data for relative valuations, simplifying the evaluation of overvaluation or undervaluation.

Is it possible to find truly pure play companies in today’s business landscape?

The term “pure play” is often used as an approximation because even companies that focus on one industry may have some cross-industry exposure. Large, publicly traded companies are particularly likely to have some level of diversification.

How can investors mitigate the specific risks associated with pure play companies?

Investors can mitigate specific risks by diversifying their portfolio. Relying solely on one sector, product, or investing strategy can be risky, so diversification is a common strategy to balance and spread risk.

Key takeaways

  • Pure play companies specialize in one industry or product, making them attractive for targeted investments.
  • Investors opt for pure plays to reduce unwanted diversification risks and focus on specific sectors.
  • Analysts use pure plays for accurate data in comparable company analyses and relative valuations.
  • Today, finding a truly pure play company is challenging, as most companies have some cross-industry exposure.
  • Investors can manage specific risks through portfolio diversification.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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