Are Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)’s Bearish Ratings Justified?

The best investors are not afraid to go against the grain. And an investment in Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which has an average analyst rating of only hold, would certainly fit the bill. Might patient investors be able to find value in this stock? Let's dive into numbers and see for ourselves.

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 Hewlett Packard Enterprise is 1.24, compared to its sector average of 4.25 and the S&P500's average P/B of 4.59.

The most common metric for valuing a company is its Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio. It's simply today's stock price of 20.67 divided by either its trailing or forward earnings, which for Hewlett Packard Enterprise are $1.37 and $2.1 respectively. Based on these values, the company's trailing P/E ratio is 15.1 and its forward P/E ratio is 9.8. By way of comparison, the average P/E ratio of the Technology sector is 32.54 and the average P/E ratio of the S&P 500 is 27.65.

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 Hewlett Packard Enterprise's P/E ratio by its projected 5 year earnings growth rate, we obtain its Price to Earnings Growth (PEG) ratio of 2.97. 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 Hewlett Packard Enterprise'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 0.428. Since HPE's is lower than 1, it does not have the liquidity necessary to meet its current liabilities.

One last metric to check out is Hewlett Packard Enterprise's free cash flow of $1.6 Billion. This represents the total sum of all the company's inflows and outflows of capital, including the costs of servicing its debt. It's the final bottom line of the company, which it can use to re-invest or to pay its investors a dividend. With such healthy cash flows, investors can expect Hewlett Packard Enterprise to keep paying its 2.4% dividend.

In conclusion, Hewlett Packard Enterprise may hold more intrinsic value than analysts give it credit for. If analysts are unenthused about the stock despite its attractive valuation, it is likely due to their perception of limited growth potential, as evidenced by its elevated PEG ratio. We will keep following HPE to see whether the value or growth thesis prevails.

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.