Comparable Companies Analysis Suggests You Should Buy Life Storage Inc (NYSE: LSI)

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Life Storage Inc (NYSE: LSI) trades at an EBITDA Multiple of 19.8x, which is higher than the Real Estate sector median of 18.5x. While this makes LSI appear like a stock to avoid or sell if you own it, you might change your mind after gaining a better understanding of the assumptions behind the EV / EBITDA ratio. In this article, I will break down what an EBITDA Multiple is, how to interpret it and what to watch out for.


Understanding Valuation Multiples and EV / EBITDA

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 EBITDA Multiple, also known as Enterprise Value-to-EBITDA Multiple (EV/EBITDA), measures the dollars in Enterprise Value for each dollar of EBITDA. To determine if a company is expensive, it’s far more useful to compare EV / EBITDA 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 an EBITDA Multiples valuation model is the following:

Enterprise Value = EBITDA x Selected Multiple

An EBITDA 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 / EBITDA ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different. I compare Life Storage’s EBITDA multiple to those of CubeSmart (NYSE: CUBE), Extra Space Storage Inc (NYSE: EXR), National Storage Affiliates (NYSE: NSA) and Public Storage (NYSE: PSA) in the chart below.

LSI EBITDA Multiple vs Peers Chartsource: finbox.io Benchmarks: EBITDA Multiples

Since Life Storage’s EBITDA multiple of 19.8x is lower than the median of its peers (21.9x), it means that investors are paying less than they should for each dollar of LSI’s EBITDA. As such, our analysis shows that LSI represents an undervalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s EBITDA Multiples Model calculates a fair value of roughly $103.50 per share which implies approximately 12.0% upside.

LSI EV / EBITDA Valuation Calculation

Note that the selected multiple of 21.5x in the analysis above was determined by averaging Life Storage’s current EBITDA multiple with its peer group and sector.


Understanding the EV / EBITDA Ratio’s Limitations

Before jumping to the conclusion that Life Storage 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 Life Storage, and

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

If the first assumption is not accurate, the difference in EBITDA multiples could be due to a variety of factors. For example, if you accidentally compare Life Storage with higher growth companies, then its EBITDA multiple would naturally be lower than its peers since investors reward high growth stocks with a higher price.

LSI EBITDA Growth and Margins vs Peers Tablesource: EBITDA multiples model

Now if the second assumption does not hold true, Life Storage’s lower multiple may be because firms in our peer group are being overvalued by the market.


What This Means For Investors

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 LSI. However, keep in mind the limitations of an EBITDA 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 Life Storage by taking a look at the following:

Valuation Metrics: what is Life Storage’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 Life Storage 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 Life Storage’s fixed asset 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: Valuation, financial statement analysis. Matt Hogan is also a co-founder of finbox.io. His expertise is in investment decision making. Prior to finbox.io, Matt worked for an investment banking group providing fairness opinions in connection to stock acquisitions. He spent much of his time building valuation models to help clients determine an asset’s fair value. He believes that these same valuation models should be used by all investors before buying or selling a stock. His work is frequently published at InvestorPlace, Benzinga, ValueWalk, AAII, Barron’s, Seeking Alpha and investing.com. Matt can be reached at matt@finbox.io or at +1 (516) 778-6257.

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