In value investing, it is a common practice to pick stocks that are cheap but fundamentally strong. There are a number of investment styles for finding great stocks at attractive values.
While considering valuation metrics, though price-to-earnings and price-to-sales are the first choices, the P/B ratio is also emerging as a convenient tool for identifying low-priced stocks that have high-growth prospects.
Price-to-book ratio or P/B ratio is essentially the ratio of stock price to book value, i.e. how much an investor needs to pay for each dollar of book value of a stock. It is calculated by dividing the current closing price of the stock by the book value per share.
Here’s the formula of P/B ratio:
P/B ratio = market capitalization/book value of equity.
What is Book Value?
Book value is the total value that would be left over, according to the company’s balance sheet, if it goes bankrupt immediately. In other words, this is what shareholders would theoretically receive if a company liquidates all its assets after paying off all its liabilities.
It is calculated by subtracting total liabilities from the total assets of a company. In most cases, this equates to common stockholders’ equity on the balance sheet. However, depending on the company’s balance sheet, intangible assets should also be subtracted from the total assets to determine book value.
Understanding P/B Ratio
By comparing the book value of equity to its market price, we get an idea of whether a company is under- or overpriced. However, like P/E or P/S ratio, it is always better to compare P/B ratios within industries.
A P/B ratio less than one means that the stock is trading at less than its book value, or the stock is undervalued and therefore a good buy. Conversely, a stock with a ratio greater than one can be interpreted as being overvalued or relatively expensive.
For example, a stock with a P/B ratio of 2 means that we pay $2 for every $1 of book value. Thus, the higher the P/B, the more expensive the stock.
But there is a caveat. A P/B ratio less than one can also mean that the company is earning weak or even negative returns on its assets, or that the assets are overstated, in which case the stock should be shunned because it may be destroying shareholder value. Conversely, the stock’s price may be significantly high — thereby pushing the P/B ratio to more than one — in the likely case that it has become a takeover target, a good enough reason to own the stock.
Moreover, the P/B ratio isn't without limitations. It is useful for businesses — like finance, investments, insurance and banking or manufacturing companies — with many liquid/tangible assets on the books. However, it can be misleading for firms with significant R&D expenditure, high debt, service companies or those with negative earnings.
In any case, the ratio is not particularly relevant as a standalone number. One should analyze other ratios like P/E, P/S and debt to equity before arriving at a reasonable investment decision.
Price to Book (common Equity) less than X-Industry Median: A lower P/B compared with the industry average implies that there is enough room for the stock to gain.
Price to Sales less than X-Industry Median: The P/S ratio determines how much the market values every dollar of the company’s sales/revenues — a lower ratio than the industry makes the stock attractive.
Price to Earnings using F(1) estimate less than X-Industry Median: The P/E ratio (F1) values a company based on its current share price relative to its estimated earnings per share — a lower ratio than the industry is considered better.
PEG less than 1: PEG ratio links the P/E ratio to the future growth rate of the company. PEG ratio portrays a more complete picture than the P/E ratio. A value of less than 1 indicates that the stock is undervalued and investors need to pay less for a stock that has bright earnings growth prospects.
Current Price greater than or equal to $5: They must all be trading at a minimum of $5 or higher.
Average 20-Day Volume greater than or equal to 100,000: A substantial trading volume ensures that the stock is easily tradable.
Zacks Rank less than or equal to #2: Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) stocks are known to outperform irrespective of the market environment.
Value Score equal to A or B: Our research shows that stocks with a Value Score of A or B when combined with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 offer the best opportunities in the value investing space.
Here are six of the 12 stocks that qualified the screening:
Navient Corporation NAVI, a loan management, servicing and asset recovery company, currently carries a Zacks Rank of 2. It has a 3-5 year EPS growth rate of 18% and a Value Score of A.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. PCG is the parent holding company of California’s largest regulated electric and gas utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company. It has a projected 3-5 year EPS growth rate of 2.5%. It currently has a Zacks Rank #2 and a Value Score of B.
Gray Television GTN, a communications company, has a projected 3-5 year EPS growth rate of 10%. It currently has a Zacks Rank #2 and a Value Score of A.
Foundation Building Materials FBM, a specialty distributor of wallboard and suspended ceiling systems, is currently a Zacks #2 Ranked stock. It has a 3-5 year EPS growth rate of 12.1% and a Value Score of A.
Athene Holding ATH, a retirement services company, has a projected 3-5 year EPS growth rate of 9.9%. It currently has a Zacks Rank #2 and a Value Score of A.
Blucoras BCOR provides technology-enabled financial solutions to consumers, small businesses and tax professional. It currently carries a Zacks Rank of 2. It has a 3-5 year EPS growth rate of 20% and a Value Score of B.