Should You Be Tempted To Buy Pinnacle Foods, Inc (NYSE: PF) Because Of Its P/E Multiple?

in VALUATION MULTIPLES by

Pinnacle Foods, Inc (NYSE: PF) shares currently trade at 14.2x trailing earnings which is lower than the Consumer Staples sector median of 22.5x. While this makes PF 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.


Pinnacle 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 Pinnacle’s P/E ratio to its peer group that includes Lamb Weston Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: LW), ConAgra Brands, Inc. (NYSE: CAG), McCormick & Company, Incorporated (NYSE: MKC.V) and Kellogg Company (NYSE: K).

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

Since Pinnacle’s P/E of 14.2x is lower than the median of its peers (25.0x), it means that investors are paying less than they should for each dollar of PF’s earnings. As such, our analysis shows that PF represents an undervalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s P/E Multiple Modelcalculates a fair value of roughly $92.00 per share which implies around 45.0% upside.

PF P/E Valuation Calculation

I selected a fair multiple of 20.5x in my analysis by averaging Pinnacle’s current P/E ratio with its peer group.


Are Peers Really Comparable?

Before concluding that Pinnacle 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 Pinnacle, 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 Pinnacle 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.

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

However, if the second assumption does not hold true, Pinnacle’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 PF. 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 Pinnacle by taking a look at the following:

Valuation Metrics: what is Pinnacle’s EBITDA less CapEx multiple and how does it compare to its peers? This is a helpful multiple to analyze when comparing capital intensive businesses. View the company’s EBITDA less CapEx multiple here.

Risk Metrics: what is Pinnacle’s asset efficiency? This ratio measures the amount of cash flow that a company generates from its assets. View the company’s asset efficiency here.

Efficiency Metrics: is management becoming more or less efficient in creating value for the firm? Find out by analyzing the company’s return on invested capital ratio 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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