Value and growth catching up | Fin24
 
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Value and growth catching up

Oct 08 2019 17:59
Schalk Louw

I often use the analogy of the water skier to illustrate how share prices (and ultimately, indices) sometimes find themselves in front of the proverbial boat, or earnings.

Without the pulling action from the boat, the skier will lose momentum, but once the boat catches up and moves past the skier, the rope will tighten behind it, pulling the skier forward. 

When applying this principle to share earnings, we have to consider that the value of a share can be calculated in various ways. The most important will probably be its ability to generate future earnings. 

Investors’ emotions, however, also play a vital role in price movements. When prices are based on investors’ emotions rather than a company’s ability to generate future income, it either creates a good investment opportunity or serves as a crucial warning to investors when prices rise faster than earnings.

In March 2018, I warned investors to make sure that their risks are well diversified, due to the fact that the FTSE/JSE All Share Index (Alsi), as the water skier, was (based on its fair value at that point) roughly 20% ahead of the boat (earnings growth). 

The earnings per share (EPS) model that we use to determine the fair value gives us an indication of how share prices performed when compared to their earnings on a historical level (which does not guarantee future movements). These levels are then multiplied by the average historical price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) of the underlying asset (in this case, the Alsi).

This is all history, and 18 months down the line, our index is trading around 5% lower and the EPS around 15% higher. It would appear that these two have finally caught up with each other. Please note that this model does not indicate that the Alsi is now cheaply priced, but rather that the index, in growth terms, is priced more fairly.

Over the past 25 years, we have seen that the “boat” can stay ahead of the “skier” for long periods of time. In order to determine whether current prices are cheap or expensive, I use a model that adds the P/E, inverse dividend yield and price-to-book ratio (P/B) together, and then normalises the data. 

The P/E indicates the relationship between the share price and its earnings (profit), and it also shows us how cheap or expensive a company’s share is. Dividend yield simply indicates the percentage of dividends paid by a company to its investors, relative to its current share price. 

Some analysts may argue that a P/B may be an even better way to determine whether a share is cheap or expensive. The P/B ratio compares a share’s market value to its book value. The lower the P/B, the more undervalued the share. 

When combining these valuation methods, you can clearly see that the best times to buy were just after the 2008 market collapse, as well as between 2011 and 2012, just after the global recession (see graph 2). For the first time since then, our local market is now priced at the same levels as these post-recession levels.

I can still remember the negativity that followed the great correction of 2008, and also the 2011 recession. Emotions were at an all-time high. Investors who were invested in cash wouldn’t even consider buying anything. And those already invested in local shares wanted to sell at those all-time lows.

Today, those who acted on their emotions in both situations will tell you that it was a huge mistake. I am not saying that the Alsi cannot see further declines, because it can. Based on historical movements, it has moved even deeper into value levels before.

What I am saying is that the market isn’t that expensive any more and that it now presents a buying opportunity.

This article originally appeared in the 10 October edition of finweek magazine. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.  

jse top 40  |  jse  |  markets  |  south africa  |  schalk louw
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