Is It Time To Buy TravelCenters of America LLC (NASDAQ:TA) Based Off Its PE Ratio?

This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to begin learning the link between TravelCenters of America LLC (NASDAQ:TA)’s fundamentals and stock market performance.

TravelCenters of America LLC (NASDAQ:TA) is currently trading at a trailing P/E of 5x, which is lower than the industry average of 20.2x. Although some investors may jump to the conclusion that this is a great buying opportunity, understanding the assumptions behind the P/E ratio might change your mind. In this article, I will break down what the P/E ratio is, how to interpret it and what to watch out for. View out our latest analysis for TravelCenters of America

Breaking down the P/E ratio

NasdaqGS:TA PE PEG Gauge June 18th 18
NasdaqGS:TA PE PEG Gauge June 18th 18

A common ratio used for relative valuation is the P/E ratio. It compares a stock’s price per share to the stock’s earnings per share. A more intuitive way of understanding the P/E ratio is to think of it as how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.

Formula

Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share

P/E Calculation for TA

Price per share = $3.6

Earnings per share = $0.717

∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = $3.6 ÷ $0.717 = 5x

The P/E ratio itself doesn’t tell you a lot; however, it becomes very insightful when you compare it with other similar companies. Ultimately, our goal is to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar attributes to TA, such as company lifetime and products sold. One way of gathering a peer group is to use firms in the same industry, which is what I’ll do. 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.

At 5x, TA’s P/E is lower than its industry peers (20.2x). This implies that investors are undervaluing each dollar of TA’s earnings. As such, our analysis shows that TA represents an under-priced stock.

A few caveats

Before you jump to the conclusion that TA represents the perfect buying opportunity, it is important to realise that our conclusion rests on two important assertions. The first is that our peer group actually contains companies that are similar to TA. If this isn’t the case, the difference in P/E could be due to some other factors. For example, if you inadvertently compared lower risk firms with TA, then investors would naturally value TA at a lower price since it is a riskier investment. Similarly, if you accidentally compared higher growth firms with TA, investors would also value TA at a lower price since it is a lower growth investment. Both scenarios would explain why TA has a lower P/E ratio than its peers. The second assumption that must hold true is that the stocks we are comparing TA to are fairly valued by the market. If this assumption is violated, TA’s P/E may be lower than its peers because its peers are actually overvalued by investors.

NasdaqGS:TA Future Profit June 18th 18
NasdaqGS:TA Future Profit June 18th 18

What this means for you:

You may have already conducted fundamental analysis on the stock as a shareholder, so its current undervaluation could signal a good buying opportunity to increase your exposure to TA. Now that you understand the ins and outs of the PE metric, you should know to bear in mind its limitations before you make an investment decision. 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 highly recommend you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for TA’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for TA’s outlook.
  2. Past Track Record: Has TA 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 TA’s historicals for more clarity.
  3. 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.