Are Analysts Underestimating Hersha Hospitality Trust (HT)?

Hersha Hospitality Trust's price surge today will have many doubting analyst views on the stock. Ending the day at $9.8, HT has posted 56.1% gains, meaning that many investors are willing to buy the stock despite its average rating of hold. What factors might be motivating these buyers?

Let's start our value analysis with the price to book (P/B) ratio. This is perhaps the most basic measure of a company's valuation, which is its market value divided by its book value. Book value refers to the sum of all of the company's tangible assets minus its liabilities -- you can also think of it as the company's equity value.

Traditionally, value investors would look for companies with a ratio of less than 1 (meaning that the market value was smaller than the company's book value), but such opportunities are very rare these days. So we tend to look for company's whose valuations are less than their sector and market average. The P/B ratio for Hersha Hospitality Trust is 0.59, compared to its sector average of 2.24 and the S&P500's average P/B of 2.95.

The most common metric for valuing a company is its Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio. It's simply today's stock price of 9.8 divided by either its trailing or forward earnings, which for Hersha Hospitality Trust are $3.11 and $-0.63 respectively. Based on these values, the company's trailing P/E ratio is 3.2 and its forward P/E ratio is -15.6. By way of comparison, the average P/E ratio of the Real Estate sector is 24.81 and the average P/E ratio of the S&P 500 is 15.97.

The problem with P/E ratios is that they don't take into account the growth of earnings. This means that a company with a higher than average P/E ratio may still be undervalued if it has extremely high projected earnings growth. Conversely, a company with a low P/E ratio may not present a good value if its projected earnings are stagnant.

When we divide Hersha Hospitality Trust's P/E ratio by its projected 5 year earnings growth rate, we obtain its Price to Earnings Growth (PEG) ratio of -0.32. A PEG ratio of 1 or less may indicate the company is undervalued in terms of its growth potential. On the other hand, a PEG ratio higher than 1 could indicate that investors are paying too high a premium for these growth levels. Bear in mind, however, that the 5 year earnings growth estimate could very well be an over or underestimate!

Indebted or mismanaged companies can't sustain shareholder value for long, even if they have strong earnings. For this reason, considering Hersha Hospitality Trust's ability to meet its debt obligations is an important aspect of its valuation. By adding up its current assets, then subtracting its inventory and prepaid expenses, and then dividing the whole by its current liabilities, we obtain the company's Quick Ratio of 0.885. Since HT's is lower than 1, it does not have the liquidity necessary to meet its current liabilities.

Investors are undoubtedly attracted by Hersha Hospitality Trust's dividend of $3.2%. But can the company keep up these payments? Dividends are paid out from levered free cash flow, which is the money left over after the company has accounted for all expenses and income -- including those unrelated to its core business. In Hersha Hospitality Trust's case, the cash flows are negative which calls into question the firm's ability to sustain its dividends.

Are analysts missing the big picture on Hersha Hospitality Trust? Or did they unearth some damning information to consider about the company that trumps the stock's strong valuation and growth potential?

The above analysis is intended for educational purposes only and was performed on the basis of publicly available data. It is not to be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Any buy, sell, or other recommendations mentioned in the article are direct quotations of consensus recommendations from the analysts covering the stock, and do not represent the opinions of Market Inference or its writers. Past performance, accounting data, and inferences about market position and corporate valuation are not reliable indicators of future price movements. Market Inference does not provide financial advice. Investors should conduct their own review and analysis of any company of interest before making an investment decision.