The content of this article will benefit those of you who are starting to educate yourself about investing in the stock market and want to begin learning the link between The Hershey Company (NYSE:HSY)’s fundamentals and stock market performance.
The Hershey Company (NYSE:HSY) trades with a trailing P/E of 19.1x, which is lower than the industry average of 19.5x. While this makes HSY appear like a great stock to buy, you might change your mind after I explain the assumptions behind the P/E ratio. Today, I will deconstruct the P/E ratio and highlight what you need to be careful of when using the P/E ratio. Check out our latest analysis for Hershey
Breaking down the P/E ratio
The P/E ratio is one of many ratios used in relative valuation. By comparing a stock’s price per share to its earnings per share, we are able to see how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.
Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share
P/E Calculation for HSY
Price per share = $91.08
Earnings per share = $4.762
∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = $91.08 ÷ $4.762 = 19.1x
The P/E ratio itself doesn’t tell you a lot; however, it becomes very insightful when you compare it with other similar companies. Ideally, we want to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar characteristics as HSY, such as size and country of operation. A common peer group is companies that exist in the same industry, which is what I use below. Since similar companies should technically have similar P/E ratios, we can very quickly come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios differ.
Since HSY’s P/E of 19.1x is lower than its industry peers (19.5x), it means that investors are paying less than they should for each dollar of HSY’s earnings. Therefore, according to this analysis, HSY is an under-priced stock.
Assumptions to be aware of
Before you jump to the conclusion that HSY represents the perfect buying opportunity, it is important to realise that our conclusion rests on two important assertions. The first is that our “similar companies” are actually similar to HSY. If the companies aren’t similar, the difference in P/E might be a result of other factors. For example, if you accidentally compared higher growth firms with HSY, then HSY’s P/E would naturally be lower since investors would reward its peers’ higher growth with a higher price. Alternatively, if you inadvertently compared less risky firms with HSY, HSY’s P/E would again be lower since investors would reward its peers’ lower risk with a higher price as well. The second assumption that must hold true is that the stocks we are comparing HSY to are fairly valued by the market. If this assumption does not hold true, HSY’s lower P/E ratio may be because firms in our peer group are being overvalued by the market.
What this means for you:
If your personal research into the stock confirms what the P/E ratio is telling you, it might be a good time to add more of HSY to your portfolio. But keep in mind that the usefulness of relative valuation depends on whether you are comfortable with making the assumptions I mentioned above. Remember that basing your investment decision off one metric alone is certainly not sufficient. There are many things I have not taken into account in this article and the PE ratio is very one-dimensional. If you have not done so already, I urge you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for HSY’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for HSY’s outlook.
- Past Track Record: Has HSY been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of HSY’s historicals for more clarity.
- Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.