Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) trades at a P/E multiple of 23.5x, which is higher than the Energy sector median of 15.6x. While this makes CVX appear like a stock to avoid or sell if you own it, you might change your mind after gaining a better understanding of the assumptions behind the P/E ratio. In this article, I will break down what the P/E ratio is, how to interpret it and what to watch out for.
Understanding Valuation Multiples and the P/E Ratio
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.
A P/E Multiple is a valuation ratio that indicates the multiple of earnings investors are willing to pay for one share of a company:
P/E Multiple = Stock Price ÷ Earnings Per Share
The P/E ratio 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 P/E ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different. I compare Chevron’s P/E multiple to those of Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM), TOTAL S.A. (NYSE: TOT), Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) and Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO) in the chart below.
Since Chevron’s P/E of 23.5x is higher than the median of its peers (12.7x), it means that investors are paying more than they should for each dollar of CVX’s earnings. As such, our analysis shows that CVX represents an overvalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s P/E Multiple Model calculates a fair value of $83.27 per share which implies -27.8% downside.
Note that the selected multiple of 17.3x in the analysis above was determined by averaging Chevron’s current P/E multiple with its peer group and sector.
Understanding the P/E Ratio’s Limitations
Before jumping to the conclusion that Chevron 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 Chevron, and
(2) the selected peer group stocks are being fairly valued by the market.
If the first assumption is not accurate, the difference in P/E ratios could be due to a variety of factors. For example, if you accidentally compare Chevron with lower growth companies, then its P/E multiple would naturally be higher than its peers since investors reward high growth stocks with a higher price.
Now if the second assumption does not hold true, Chevron’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 CVX. However, keep in mind the limitations of the P/E ratio when making investment decisions. 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 Chevron by taking a look at the following:
Risk Metrics: what is Chevron’s CapEx coverage? This is the amount a company outlays for capital assets for each dollar it generates from those investments. View the company’s CapEx coverage here.
Valuation Metrics: what is Chevron’s free cash flow yield and how does it compare to its publicly traded peers? This metric measures the amount of free cash flow for each dollar of equity (market capitalization). Analyze the free cash flow yield here.
Brian is a founder at finbox.io, where he’s focused on building tools that make it faster and easier for investors to research stock fundamentals. Brian’s background is in physics & computer science and previously worked as a software engineer at GE Healthcare. He enjoys applying his expertise in technology to help find market trends that impact investors.
Brian can be reached at email@example.com.
As of this writing, Brian did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities and this is not a buy or sell recommendation on any security mentioned.