First Citizens BancShares (NASDAQ: FCNCA) shares currently trade at 15.2x trailing earnings which is lower than the Financials sector median of 19.4x. While this makes FCNCA look like a stock to add to your portfolio, equity investors might change their mind after taking a closer look at the assumptions behind the P/E ratio. In this article, I define how to calculate a P/E multiple and what to keep an eye out for when applying it in a comparable companies analysis.
First Citizens Banc Comparable Companies Analysis
A comparable companies analysis, also known as a multiples valuation, determines the value of a subject company by benchmarking its financial performance against similar public companies or peers. We can conclude if a company looks undervalued or overvalued relative to its peers by comparing metrics like growth, profit margin, and valuation ratios.
A P/E Ratio is a valuation metric that indicates the multiple of earnings investors are willing to pay for one share of a company:
P/E Ratio = Stock Price ÷ Earnings Per Share
The P/E ratio by itself is not very helpful at all. It is only useful when comparing it to other companies that are considered similar to the subject company. The basic idea is that companies with similar characteristics should trade at similar multiples, all other things being equal. Therefore, we can come to a conclusion about the stock if the ratios are different. In the chart below, I compare First Citizens Banc’s P/E ratio to its peer group that includes Synovus Financial Corp. (NYSE: SNV), FIRST REPUBLIC BANK (NYSE: FRC), Associated Banc-Corp(NYSE: ASB) and Commerce Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ: CBSH).
Since First Citizens Banc’s P/E of 15.2x is lower than the median of its peers (22.0x), it means that investors are paying less than they should for each dollar of FCNCA’s earnings. As such, our analysis shows that FCNCA represents an undervalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s P/E Multiple Model calculates a fair value of $559.87 per share which implies 32.0% upside.
I selected a fair multiple of 20.1x in my analysis by averaging First Citizens Banc’s current P/E ratio with its peer group.
Are Peers Really Comparable?
Before concluding that First Citizens Banc should be added to 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 First Citizens Banc, 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 First Citizens Banc with higher growth companies, then its P/E multiple would naturally be lower than its peers since investors reward high growth stocks with a higher price.
source: P/E model
However, if the second assumption does not hold true, First Citizens Banc’s lower multiple may be because firms in our peer group are being overvalued by the market.
How This Impacts Shareholders
As a shareholder, you may have already conducted fundamental analysis on the stock so its current undervaluation could signal a potential buying opportunity to increase your position in FCNCA. 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 First Citizens Banc by taking a look at the following:
Valuation Metrics: what is First Citizens Banc’s free cash flow yield and how does it compare to its publicly traded peers? This metric measures the amount of free cash flow for each dollar of equity (market capitalization). Analyze the free cash flow yield here.
Risk Metrics: what is First Citizens Banc’s cash ratio which is used to assess a company’s short-term liquidity. View the company’s cash ratio here.
Efficiency Metrics: return on equity is used to measure the return that a firm generates on the book value of common equity. View First Citizens Banc’s return on equity here.
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.