Is US Auto Parts Network Inc (PRTS) A Buy At Its Current Price?

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US Auto Parts Network Inc (NASDAQ:PRTS) trades with a trailing P/E of 3.9x, which is lower than the industry average of 183.7x. While PRTS might seem like an attractive stock to buy, it is important to understand the assumptions behind the P/E ratio before you make any investment decisions. Today, I will break down what the P/E ratio is, how to interpret it and what to watch out for. View our latest analysis for U.S. Auto Parts Network

Demystifying the P/E ratio

NasdaqGS:PRTS PE PEG Gauge Sep 29th 17 NasdaqGS:PRTS PE PEG Gauge Sep 29th 17

The P/E ratio is a popular ratio used in relative valuation since earnings power is a key driver of investment value. By comparing a stock’s price per share to its earnings per share, we are able to see how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.

Formula

Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share

P/E Calculation for PRTS

Price per share = 2.88

Earnings per share = 0.73

∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = 2.88 ÷ 0.73 = 3.9x

On its own, the P/E ratio doesn’t tell you much; however, it becomes extremely useful when you compare it with other similar companies. Ideally, we want to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar characteristics as PRTS, such as size and country of operation. A quick method of creating a peer group is to use companies in the same industry, which is what I will do. Since it is expected that similar companies have similar P/E ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different.

Since PRTS’s P/E of 3.9x is lower than its industry peers (183.7x), it means that investors are paying less than they should for each dollar of PRTS’s earnings. Therefore, according to this analysis, PRTS is an under-priced stock.

A few caveats

While our conclusion might prompt you to buy PRTS immediately, there are two important assumptions you should be aware of. The first is that our “similar companies” are actually similar to PRTS. If the companies aren’t similar, the difference in P/E might be a result of other factors. For example, if you are inadvertently comparing lower risk firms with PRTS, then PRTS’s P/E would naturally be lower than its peers, since investors would value those with lower risk with a higher price. The other possibility is if you were accidentally comparing higher growth firms with PRTS. In this case, PRTS’s P/E would be lower since investors would also reward its peers’ higher growth with a higher price. The second assumption that must hold true is that the stocks we are comparing PRTS to are fairly valued by the market. If this assumption is violated, PRTS’s P/E may be lower than its peers because its peers are actually overvalued by investors.

NasdaqGS:PRTS Future Profit Sep 29th 17 NasdaqGS:PRTS Future Profit Sep 29th 17

What this means for you:

Are you a shareholder? You may have already conducted fundamental analysis on the stock as a shareholder, so its current undervaluation could signal a good buying opportunity to increase your exposure to PRTS. Now that you understand the ins and outs of the PE metric, you should know to bear in mind its limitations before you make an investment decision.

Are you a potential investor? If PRTS has been on your watch list for a while, it is best you also consider its intrinsic valuation. Looking at PE on its own will not give you the full picture of the stock as an investment, so I suggest you should also look at other relative valuation metrics like EV/EBITDA or PEG.

PE is one aspect of your portfolio construction to consider when holding or entering into a stock. But it is certainly not the only factor. Take a look at our most recent infographic report on U.S. Auto Parts Network for a more in-depth analysis of the stock to help you make a well-informed investment decision. Since we know a limitation of PE is it doesn’t properly account for growth, you can use our free platform to see my list of stocks with a high growth potential and see if their PE is still reasonable.

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