Sep 2, 2004|
P/E - What is it all about?
The most commonly used valuation metric by investors is the price to earnings ratio or commonly referred to as the P/E ratio. Though commonly used, it is also misunderstood for various reasons. Here is an attempt to simplify this valuation metric.
How is P/E calculated?
It is calculated by dividing market price of a stock by EPS (earnings per share). EPS in turn is calculated by dividing the net profit of the company by the number of shares outstanding.
Having calculated the P/E, what does it stand for?
Lets assume a stock is trading at Rs 100 and its EPS is Rs 20. The P/E multiple is 5 (100 upon 20). Assuming that the company's EPS is likely to be Rs 20 each year, it will take 5 years for the investor to realize Rs 100. Of course, the assumption here is that the company's EPS is not growing at all.
Now taking the example of commonly traded stocks like Infosys and Tisco. While the former trades at a P/E multiple of 25 times, the latter trades at 7 times. Why is it so? It is believed that the stock price of a company tracks its long-term earnings growth potential. In an economy, some companies (or sectors) are likely to grow at a faster (like say software or pharma) rate. So, the P/E multiple of companies from these sectors are likely to be higher and vice versa. Depending upon growth expectations, the P/E multiple could vary.
There is one crucial factor here i.e. expectations. Though Infosys may be trading at 25 times earnings, if EPS is expected to grow by 25% per annum, the investor could realize the money in four years.
P/E - Is it a discount or a multiple?
There are two ways of quoting P/E valuations:
Tisco is currently trading at Rs 350 discounting its earnings by 5.5 times
Tisco is currently trading at Rs 350 at a P/E multiple of 5.5 times
Which is right? The answer to this lies in the formula for calculating P/E itself.
P/E is Market price divided by EPS. If we were to reverse the formula,
Market price = P/E multiplied by EPS. Stock prices reflect future earnings potential and not past performance. Discounting the current price with historical EPS is not a right way to analyse companies.
Take a hypothetical case. If Tisco's EPS for the next year is expected at Rs 50 and the growth in EPS is around 15%, the market price is calculated by multiplying Rs 50 with 15 times i.e. Rs 750. When determining the stock price, one does not discount earnings but multiply earnings.
What is the 'right' P/E multiple for a stock?
The answer to this question is not easy. In the previous example, we have assigned a P/E multiple of 15 times because EPS is expected to grow by 15% in the immediate year. Is this the right way? Not necessarily. Here, it is important to understand industry characteristics of the company.
For a commodity stock like Tisco, EPS tends to grow at a faster rate when steel prices are recovering or are at the peak and the EPS is likely to decline at a faster rate during downturns. To qualify this statement, if we look at EPS growth of Tisco from 1994 to 2004, the compounded growth in earnings is 17%. However, the CAGR growth in the last three years was 193% (the recovery phase). So, if one believes that steel demand is likely to trace long-term economic growth and that 15% growth is unsustainable, the P/E multiple should be ideally much lower than 15 times. Similarly, the long-term growth prospects for software companies could be much higher than commodities. So, the P/E multiple for software stocks could be at a premium.
Determining the P/E multiple for a stock/sector also depends on:
- Historical performance - Why does Infosys trade at a higher P/E multiple compared to Satyam? By historical performance, we mean, focus of the management (without unrelated diversifications), ability to outperform competitors in downturn/upturns and promise vs performance. This can be gauged if one looks at the last three to five year annual reports of a company.
- The sector characteristics - Margin profile, whether it is asset intensive and intensity of competition. Less asset intensive sectors (say, FMCG) are considered defensive and therefore, could trade a premium to the overall market.
- And more importantly, expectations. Take the case of textile stocks. Expectations of significant growth opportunities post the 2005 quote regime phase out has resulted in upgradation of P/E multiple of the textile sector.
When is P/E not useful?
- Economic cycles - In FY02, Tisco was trading at a P/E multiple of 20.5 times its FY02 earnings. Was it expensive? Based on FY05 expected earnings, Tisco is trading at a P/E multiple of 5 times its earnings (at Rs 250). Is it cheap? If one ignored Tisco in FY02 on the basis that it was 'expensive' on the P/E multiple in FY02, the opportunity loss is as much as 350%. Businesses operate in cycles. During downturn, EPS will be low but P/E will be inflated and vice versa. At the same time, during expansionary phase, corporates invest in capacities. In this case, high depreciation costs suppress earnings. P/E, in this context, may mislead investors.
- Not actively tracked - There are number of companies in the Indian stock market that are not actively tracked by investors, analyst and institutions. For example, Infosys' average price was Rs 2 in FY94 and the P/E multiple was 17 times. At times, P/E multiple may be lower because some sectors/stocks are not in the limelight.
- Expectations - On the downside, some stocks may be trading at a significant premium because earnings expectations are higher. High P/E also does not mean a good stock to buy. What if the expectations are unrealistic? One needs to exercise caution to this extent.
- Means little as a standalone number - P/E, as a standalone number, means little. Besides P/E, it is also important to look at margins, return on net worth, cash generating ability and consistency in performance over the years to assign a value to a stock.
- Market sentiment - During bear phases or when interest in stocks is low, valuations could be depressed. Since equities are considered less attractive during these periods, valuations are likely to be below historical average or below earnings growth prospects.
When is P/E useful?
A powerful metric - Unlike metrics like discounted cash flow method and so on, P/E is relatively a simple and at the same time, a powerful metric from a retail investor perspective. Though the factors behind determining the 'right' P/E multiple are important, a historical perspective of a stock's P/E could make this exercise less complex.
To conclude, valuation of stocks involves subjectivity. A person X may assign a higher P/E multiple to the stock as compared to a person Y depending on the risk profile and growth expectations. In the end, it all boils down to how the company is likely to perform.
It is not that stock market is always right when it comes to valuing a stock! As Mr. Benjamin Graham puts it "in the short term, the market is a 'voting' machine whereon countless individuals register choices that are product partly of reason and partly of emotion. However, in the long-term, the market is a 'weighing' machine on which the value of each issue (business) is recorded by an exact and impersonal mechanism". Watch the earnings!
More Views on News
Jun 10, 2017
Forty Indian investing gurus, as worthy of imitation as the legendary Peter Lynch, can help you get rich in the stock market.
Aug 22, 2017
It's surprising Warren Buffett hasn't warned investors about the expensive stock market? Let us know why.
Aug 22, 2017
Post demonetisation, a cut in bank savings deposits rates was in the offing.
Aug 22, 2017
Today, we are attacked by one preposterous thing after another, each of them even more absurd than the last.
Aug 21, 2017
Most Indians who cannot find jobs, look at becoming self-employed.
More Views on News
Aug 10, 2017
Don't miss these proxy bets on growing companies or in a few years you will be looking back with regret.
Aug 10, 2017
Bill connects the dots...between money and growth, real money and real resources, gold and cryptocurrencies...and between gold, cryptocurrencies, and time.
Aug 12, 2017
The India VIX is up 36% in the last week. Fear has gone up but is still low by historical standards.
Aug 10, 2017
Bitcoin hits an all-time high, is there more upside left?
Aug 16, 2017
Ensure your financial Independence, and pledge to start the journey towards financial freedom today!
Copyright © Equitymaster Agora Research Private Limited. All rights reserved.
Any act of copying, reproducing or distributing this newsletter whether wholly or in part, for any purpose without the permission of Equitymaster is strictly prohibited and shall be deemed to be copyright infringement. LEGAL DISCLAIMER:
Equitymaster Agora Research Private Limited (hereinafter referred as 'Equitymaster') is an independent equity research Company. Equitymaster is not an Investment Adviser. Information herein should be regarded as a resource only and should be used at one's own risk. This is not an offer to sell or solicitation to buy any securities and Equitymaster will not be liable for any losses incurred or investment(s) made or decisions taken/or not taken based on the information provided herein. Information contained herein does not constitute investment advice or a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs of individual subscribers. Before acting on any recommendation, subscribers should consider whether it is suitable for their particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek an independent professional advice. This is not directed for access or use by anyone in a country, especially, USA or Canada, where such use or access is unlawful or which may subject Equitymaster or its affiliates to any registration or licensing requirement. All content and information is provided on an 'As Is' basis by Equitymaster. Information herein is believed to be reliable but Equitymaster does not warrant its completeness or accuracy and expressly disclaims all warranties and conditions of any kind, whether express or implied. Equitymaster may hold shares in the company/ies discussed herein. As a condition to accessing Equitymaster content and website, you agree to our Terms and Conditions of Use, available here
. The performance data quoted represents past performance and does not guarantee future results.SEBI (Research Analysts) Regulations 2014, Registration No. INH000000537.
Equitymaster Agora Research Private Limited. 103, Regent Chambers, Above Status Restaurant, Nariman Point, Mumbai - 400 021. India.
Telephone: +91-22-61434055. Fax: +91-22-22028550. Email: email@example.com. Website: www.equitymaster.com. CIN:U74999MH2007PTC175407