Is Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE: ICE) A Buy At This P/E Multiple?

in VALUATION MULTIPLES by

Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE: ICE) shares currently trade at 16.8x trailing earnings which is lower than the Financials sector median of 19.6x. While this makes ICE 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.


Intercontinental Exchange 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.

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 Intercontinental Exchange’s P/E ratio to its peer group that includes Moody’s Corporation (NYSE: MCO), FactSet Research Systems Inc. (NYSE: FDS), TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation (NASDAQ: AMTD) and Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE: DB).

ICE P/E Ratio vs Peers Chartsource: finbox.io Benchmarks: P/E Multiples

Since Intercontinental Exchange’s P/E of 16.8x is lower than the median of its peers (32.9x), it means that investors are paying less than they should for each dollar of ICE’s earnings. As such, our analysis shows that ICE represents an undervalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s P/E Multiple Model calculates a fair value of roughly $99.50 per share which implies around 37.5% upside.

ICE P/E Valuation Calculation

I selected a fair multiple of 23.1x in my analysis by averaging Intercontinental Exchange’s current P/E ratio with its peer group.


Are Peers Really Comparable?

Before concluding that Intercontinental Exchange 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 Intercontinental Exchange, 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 Intercontinental Exchange 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.

ICE Net Income Growth and Margins vs Peers Tablesource: P/E model

However, if the second assumption does not hold true, Intercontinental Exchange’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 ICE. 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 Intercontinental Exchange by taking a look at the following:

Valuation Metrics: what is Intercontinental Exchange’s price to book ratio and how does it compare to its peers? Analyze Price / Book here.

Risk Metrics: what is Intercontinental Exchange’s CapEx coverage? This is the amount a company outlays for capital assets for each dollar it generates from those investments. View the company’s CapEx coverage here.

Efficiency Metrics: inventory turnover is a ratio that measures the number of times a company’s inventory is sold and replaced over the year. View Intercontinental Exchange’s inventory turnover 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.

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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