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Is Dollar General Corporation’s (NYSE:DG) PE Ratio A Signal To Buy For Investors?

Dollar General Corporation (NYSE:DG) is currently trading at a trailing P/E of 17.1x, which is lower than the industry average of 18.4x. 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 explain what the P/E ratio is as well as what you should look out for when using it. View our latest analysis for Dollar General

Breaking down the Price-Earnings ratio

The P/E ratio is a popular ratio used in relative valuation since earnings power is a key driver of investment value. 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 DG

Price per share = \$96.67

Earnings per share = \$5.642

∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = \$96.67 ÷ \$5.642 = 17.1x

On its own, the P/E ratio doesn’t tell you much; however, it becomes extremely useful 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 DG, such as size and country of operation. 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 17.1x, DG’s P/E is lower than its industry peers (18.4x). This implies that investors are undervaluing each dollar of DG’s earnings. As such, our analysis shows that DG represents an under-priced stock.

Assumptions to be aware of

However, before you rush out to buy DG, it is important to note that this conclusion is based on two key assumptions. The first is that our peer group actually contains companies that are similar to DG. 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 DG, then DG’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 DG. In this case, DG’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 DG to are fairly valued by the market. If this assumption does not hold true, DG’s lower P/E ratio may be because firms in our peer group are being overvalued by the market. 