It's been a great morning session for Heritage Financial investors, who saw their shares rise 1.3% to a price of $31.3 per share. At these higher prices, is the company still fairly valued? If you are thinking about investing, make sure to check the company's fundamentals before making a decision.
Heritage Financial Corporation operates as the bank holding company for Heritage Bank that provides various financial services to small and medium sized businesses and individuals in the United States. The company belongs to the Financial Services sector, which has an average price to earnings (P/E) ratio of 13.34 and an average price to book (P/B) ratio of 1.95. In contrast, Heritage Financial has a trailing 12 month P/E ratio of 14.1 and a P/B ratio of 1.4.
P/B ratios are calculated by dividing the company's market value by its book value. The book value refers to all of the company's tangible assets minus its liabilities -- meaning that intangibles such as intellectual property, brand name, and good will are not taken into account. Traditionally, a P/B ratio of around 1 shows that a company is fairly valued, but owing to consistently higher valuations in the modern era, investors generally compare against sector averages.
P/E ratios have their limits on their usefulness too. Since the P/E ratio is the share price divided by earnings per share, the ratio is determined partially by market sentiment on the stock. Sometimes a negative sentiment translates to a lower market price and therefore a lower P/E ratio -- and there might be good reasons for this negative sentiment.
One of the main reasons not to blindly invest in a company with a low P/E ratio is that it might have low growth expectations. Low growth correlates with low stock performance, so it's useful to factor growth into the valuation process. One of the easiest ways to do this is to divide the company's P/E ratio by its expected growth rate, which results in the price to earnings growth, or PEG ratio.
Heritage Financial's PEG ratio is 1.91, which tells us the company is fairly valued in terms of growth. PEG ratios under 1 are considered an indicator of undervalued growth, but we need to keep in mind that many successful companies with excellent share performance have maintained much higher PEG ratios.
As always, a quantitative approach to a stock should be supplemented with a look at qualitative factors, such as the competence of its management team, quality of its corporate culture, and the wide variety of social and economic factors that can impact the success of its product.