Sell RLJ Lodging Trust (NYSE: RLJ) Because Of Its EBITDA Multiple?

in VALUATION MULTIPLES by

RLJ Lodging Trust (NYSE: RLJ) trades at an EBITDA Multiple of 15.7x, which is lower than the Real Estate sector median of 18.9x. 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 / EBITDA ratio 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 RLJ Lodging Trust’s EBITDA 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 EBITDA Multiple vs Peers Chartsource: finbox.io Benchmarks: EBITDA Multiples

Since RLJ Lodging Trust’s EBITDA multiple of 15.7x is higher than the median of its peers (14.7x), it means that investors are paying more than they should for each dollar of RLJ’s EBITDA. As such, our analysis shows that RLJ represents an overvalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s EBITDA Multiples Model calculates a fair value of roughly $21.00 per share which implies approximately 8.0% downside.

RLJ EV / EBITDA Valuation Calculation

Note that the selected multiple of 14.9x in the analysis above was determined by averaging RLJ Lodging Trust’s current EBITDA multiple with its peer group and sector.


Understanding the EV / EBITDA Ratio’s Limitations

Before jumping to the conclusion that RLJ Lodging Trust 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 Trust, 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 RLJ Lodging Trust with lower growth companies, then its EBITDA multiple would naturally be higher than its peers since investors reward high growth stocks with a higher price.

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

Now if the second assumption does not hold true, RLJ Lodging Trust’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 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 RLJ Lodging Trust by taking a look at the following:

Valuation Metrics: what is RLJ Lodging Trust’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 RLJ Lodging Trust 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 RLJ Lodging Trust’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: 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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