Comparable Companies Analysis Suggests You Should Sell RLJ Lodging Trust (NYSE: RLJ)

in VALUATION MULTIPLES by

RLJ Lodging Trust (NYSE: RLJ) trades at a Sales Multiple of 4.6x, which is lower than the Real Estate sector median of 9.9x. While this makes RLJ appear like a stock to add to your portfolio, you might change your mind after gaining a better understanding of the assumptions behind the EV / Sales ratio. In this article, I will break down what a Sales Multiple is, how to interpret it and what to watch out for.


Understanding Valuation Multiples and EV / Sales

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.

An Sales Multiple, also known as Enterprise Value-to-Sales Multiple (EV / Sales), measures the dollars in Enterprise Value for each dollar of revenue. To determine if a company is expensive, it’s far more useful to compare EV / Sales multiples than the absolute stock price. Furthermore, its key benefit over the P/E multiple is that it’s capital structure-neutral, and, therefore, better at comparing companies with different levels of debt. The general formula behind a Sales Multiples valuation model is the following:

Enterprise Value = Revenue x Selected Multiple

A sales multiple 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 EV / Sales ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different. I compare RLJ Lodging’s sales multiple to those of LaSalle Hotel Properties (NYSE: LHO), Sunstone Hotel Investors, Inc. (NYSE: SHO), Diamondrock Hospitality Company (NYSE: DRH) and Pebblebrook Hotel Trust (NYSE: PEB) in the chart below.

RLJ Sales Multiple vs Peers Chartsource: finbox.io Benchmarks: Sales Multiples

Since RLJ Lodging’s sales multiple of 4.6x is higher than the median of its peers (3.7x), it means that investors are paying more than they should for each dollar of RLJ’s revenue. As such, our analysis shows that RLJ represents an overvalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s Sales Multiples Model calculates a fair value of $15.37 per share which implies -24.7% downside.

RLJ EV / Sales Valuation Calculation

Note that the selected multiple of 3.9x in the analysis above was determined by averaging RLJ Lodging’s current sales multiple with its peer group.


Understanding the EV / Sales Ratio’s Limitations

Before jumping to the conclusion that RLJ Lodging 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 RLJ Lodging, and

(2) the selected peer group stocks are being fairly valued by the market.

If the first assumption is not accurate, the difference in sales multiples could be due to a variety of factors. For example, if you accidentally compare RLJ Lodging with lower growth companies, then its sales multiple would naturally be higher than its peers since investors reward high growth stocks with a higher price. In addition, revenue multiples are highly correlated with profit margins so differences in EBITDA margin often explain differences in valuation.

RLJ revenue Growth and Margins vs Peers Tablesource: sales multiples model

Now if the second assumption does not hold true, RLJ Lodging’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 RLJ. However, keep in mind the limitations of a sales multiples valuation when making an investment decision. 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 RLJ Lodging by taking a look at the following:

Valuation Metrics: how much upside do shares of RLJ Lodging Trust have based on Wall Street’s consensus price target? Take a look at our analyst upside data explorer that compares the company’s upside relative to its peers.

Risk Metrics: how is RLJ Lodging Trust’s financial health? Find out by viewing our financial leverage data metric which plots the dollars in total assets for each dollar of common equity over time.

Efficiency Metrics: is management becoming more or less efficient over time? Find out by analyzing the company’s asset turnover ratio which measures the dollars in revenue a company generates per dollar of assets.

As of this writing, I did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities and this is not a buy or sell recommendation on any security mentioned.

Expertise: financial modeling, mergers & acquisitions. Andy is also a founder at finbox.io, where he’s focused on building tools that make it faster and easier for investors to do investment research. Andy’s background is in investment banking where he led the analysis on over 50 board advisory engagements involving mergers and acquisitions, fairness opinions and solvency opinions. Some of his board advisory highlights: - Sears Holdings Corp.’s $620 mm spin-off via rights offering of Sears Outlet, Hometown Stores and Sears Hardware Stores. - Cerberus Capital Management’s $3.3 bn acquisition of SUPERVALU Inc.’s New Albertsons, Inc. assets. Andy can be reached at andy@finbox.io or at +1 (516) 778-6257.

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