Is Advance Auto Parts Inc (NYSE:AAP) A Buy At Its Current PE Ratio?

Advance Auto Parts Inc (NYSE:AAP) is trading with a trailing P/E of 18.4x, which is lower than the industry average of 18.7x. While this makes AAP appear like a great stock to buy, you might change your mind after I explain the assumptions behind the P/E ratio. In this article, I will explain what the P/E ratio is as well as what you should look out for when using it. See our latest analysis for Advance Auto Parts

Breaking down the P/E ratio

NYSE:AAP PE PEG Gauge Mar 31st 18
NYSE:AAP PE PEG Gauge Mar 31st 18

P/E is a popular ratio used for relative valuation. 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 AAP

Price per share = $118.55

Earnings per share = $6.439

∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = $118.55 ÷ $6.439 = 18.4x

The P/E ratio isn’t a metric you view in isolation and only becomes useful when you compare it against other similar companies. We preferably want to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar features to AAP, such as capital structure and profitability. A quick method of creating a peer group is to use companies in the same industry, which is what I will do. Since it is expected that similar companies have similar P/E ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different.

AAP’s P/E of 18.4x is lower than its industry peers (18.7x), which implies that each dollar of AAP’s earnings is being undervalued by investors. As such, our analysis shows that AAP represents an under-priced stock.

A few caveats

Before you jump to the conclusion that AAP 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 AAP. If this isn’t the case, the difference in P/E could be due to some other factors. For example, if you are inadvertently comparing lower risk firms with AAP, then AAP’s P/E would naturally be lower than its peers, since investors would value those with lower risk with a higher price. The other possibility is if you were accidentally comparing higher growth firms with AAP. In this case, AAP’s P/E would be lower since investors would also reward its peers’ higher growth with a higher price. The second assumption that must hold true is that the stocks we are comparing AAP to are fairly valued by the market. If this assumption does not hold true, AAP’s lower P/E ratio may be because firms in our peer group are being overvalued by the market.

NYSE:AAP Future Profit Mar 31st 18
NYSE:AAP Future Profit Mar 31st 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 AAP. 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 AAP’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for AAP’s outlook.
  2. Past Track Record: Has AAP 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 AAP’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.