With an average analyst rating of buy, Albemarle is clearly an analyst favorite. But the analysts could be wrong. Is ALB overvalued at today's price of $216.75? Let's take a closer look at the fundamentals to find out.
The most common valuation metric for stocks is the trailing price to earnings (P/E) ratio. Albemarle has a P/E ratio of 16.4 based on its 12 month trailing earnings per share of $13.19. Considering its future earnings estimates of $28.32 per share, the stock's forward P/E ratio is 7.7. In comparison, the average P/E ratio of the Basic Materials sector is 8.57 and the average P/E ratio of the S&P 500 is 15.97.
Albemarle's P/E ratio tells us how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of the company's earnings. The problem with this metric is that it doesn't take into account the expected growth in earnings of the stock. Sometimes elevated P/E ratios can be justified by equally elevated growth expectations.
We can solve this inconsistency by dividing the company's trailing P/E ratio by its five year earnings growth estimate, which in this case gives us a 0.14 Price to Earnings Growth (PEG) ratio. In ALB's case, the elevated P/E ratio is justified by future earnings growth estimates -- assuming those estimates turn out to be close to reality.
We can also compare the ratio of Albemarle's market price to its book value, which gives us the price to book, or P/B ratio. A company's book value refers to its present liquidation value -- or what would be left if the company sold off all its assets and paid off all of its debts today. Importantly, the book value does not include intangible assets such as the value of its brand and the goodwill of its customers. ALB has a P/B ratio of 3.8, with any figure close to or below one indicating a potentially undervalued company.
A comparison of the share price versus company earnings and book value should be balanced by an analysis of the company's ability to pay its liabilities. One popular metric is the Quick Ratio, or Acid Test, which is the company's current assets minus its inventory and prepaid expenses divided by its current liabilities. Albemarle's quick ratio is 1.026. Generally speaking, a quick ratio above 1 signifies that the company is able to meet its liabilities.
Now we turn to the actual cash that Albemarle has on hand after all of its inflows and outflows of capital have been accounted for -- including non business related items such as the cost of maintaining its debt. This final bottom line is called levered free cash flow, and for Albemarle it stands at -$. This negative cash flow could mean the company may not be able to sustain its 0.7% for much longer.
By most metrics, Albemarle is an overvalued stock. So why are analysts giving it such a generous rating? It probably has to do with their perception of its strong growth potential, as represented by its low PEG ratio. For growth-oriented investors, ALB is represents an interesting opportunity despite its elevated valuation. They just need to be sure that the growth story will come true. We will continue to monitor the stock to see which thesis prevails.