Hormel Foods Corp (NYSE: HRL) trades at a P/E multiple of 22.2x, which is lower than the Consumer Staples sector median of 23.5x. While this makes HRL appear like a stock to add to your portfolio, you might change your mind after gaining a better understanding of the assumptions behind the P/E ratio. In this article, I will break down what the P/E ratio is, how to interpret it and what to watch out for.
Understanding Valuation Multiples and the P/E Ratio
A multiples valuation, also known as a comparable companies analysis, determines the value of a subject company by benchmarking the subject’s financial performance against similar public companies (peer group). We can infer if a company is undervalued or overvalued relative to its peers by comparing metrics like growth, profit margin, and valuation multiples.
A P/E Multiple is a valuation ratio that indicates the multiple of earnings investors are willing to pay for one share of a company:
P/E Multiple = Stock Price ÷ Earnings Per Share
The P/E ratio is not meant to be viewed in isolation and is only useful when comparing it to other similar companies. Since it is expected that similar companies have similar P/E ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different. I compare Hormel’s P/E multiple to those of Dean Foods Company (NYSE: DF), ConAgra Brands, Inc.(NYSE: CAG), Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN) and Kellogg Company (NYSE: K) in the chart below.
Since Hormel’s P/E of 22.2x is higher than the median of its peers (15.0x), it means that investors are paying more than they should for each dollar of HRL’s earnings. As such, our analysis shows that HRL represents an overvalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s P/E Multiple Model calculates a fair value of $26.38 per share which implies -25.5% downside.
Note that the selected multiple of 16.5x in the analysis above was determined by averaging Hormel’s current P/E multiple with its peer group and sector.
Understanding the P/E Ratio’s Limitations
Before jumping to the conclusion that Hormel should be banished from your portfolio, it is important to understand that our conclusion rests on two important assumptions.
(1) the selected peer group actually contains companies that truly are similar to Hormel, and
(2) the selected peer group stocks are being fairly valued by the market.
If the first assumption is not accurate, the difference in P/E ratios could be due to a variety of factors. For example, if you accidentally compare Hormel with lower growth companies, then its P/E multiple would naturally be higher than its peers since investors reward high growth stocks with a higher price.
source: P/E model
Now if the second assumption does not hold true, Hormel’s higher multiple may be because firms in our peer group are being undervalued by the market.
What This Means For Investors
As a shareholder, you may have already conducted fundamental analysis on the stock so its current overvaluation could signal a potential selling opportunity to reduce your exposure to HRL. However, keep in mind the limitations of the P/E ratio when making investment decisions. There are a variety of other fundamental factors that I have not taken into consideration in this article. If you have not done so already, I highly recommend that you complete your research on Hormel by taking a look at the following:
Valuation Metrics: what is Hormel’s short ratio and how does it compare to its publicly traded peers? It represents the percentage of total shares outstanding that is being shorted. View the short ratio here.
Risk Metrics: how much interest coverage does Hormel have? This is a ratio used to assess a firm’s ability to pay interest expenses based on operating profits (EBIT). View the company’s interest coverage here.
Efficiency Metrics: fixed asset turnover is calculated by dividing revenue by average fixed assets. View Hormel’s fixed asset turnover here.
Author: Brian Dentino
Expertise: financial technology, analyzing market trends
Brian is a founder at finbox.io, where he’s focused on building tools that make it faster and easier for investors to research stock fundamentals. Brian’s background is in physics & computer science and previously worked as a software engineer at GE Healthcare. He enjoys applying his expertise in technology to help find market trends that impact investors.
Brian can be reached at email@example.com.
As of this writing, Brian did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities and this is not a buy or sell recommendation on any security mentioned.