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2021-08-06 10:36 AM

How JSE investors use Price-to-Sales (P/S) Ratio to Value Stocks

By William Dube

The price-to-sales ratio is a tool that Johannesburg Stock Exchange investors use to help determine if a company is cheap or expensive compared to other companies within its industry group.

It compares a company’s stock price to its annual revenues per share, which tells investors how much value the market puts on each Rand of revenue earned.

The ratio is typically used as part of fundamental analysis, an approach that focuses on a company’s financial reports to evaluate whether it could be a good potential investment.

What is a Price-to-Sale Ratio?

Let’s break down the price-to-sales ratio and discuss some of its uses and limitations. First, let’s look at the calculation.

The price-to-sales ratio divides the company’s stock price by its annual sales or revenue per share. Revenue can be found on the top line of the company’s income statement. It’s the amount of money the company brought in from its normal business operations, aka sales of its goods or services. 

Revenue per share is that revenue divided by the total number of outstanding shares listed in the equity section of the balance sheet.

By dividing the stock price by the annual sales per share, we see a number that works as a ratio. A price-to-sales ratio of one, means investors are paying R1 for every Rand of sales. A ratio of two means investors are paying R2 for every Rand of sales.

A ratio of 0.5 means investors are paying 50 cents for every Rand of sales. Broadly speaking, the lower the ratio, the better, because this means the company can generate greater sales per investment Rands.

How does the Price-to-Sale Ratio work?

For example, company A has a price-to-sales ratio of 7.5 while the industry’s average is 18.1. This suggests that the company is much more efficient at turning investment Rands into sales than other companies in the industry group.

Now, suppose you are considering two stocks in the same industry group. Company B has a price-to-sales ratio of 2.9. This is lower than the first company and the industry group.

Some investors may interpret this as a sign that company B is a better value than company. A because company B may have a higher likelihood of providing a return on investment and possibly faster than its competitors.

When comparing companies using ratios, it’s best to compare within the industry group. For example, in January 2021 in the USA, the average price-to-sales ratio for the Technology Services industry group was 15, but for Oil and Gas Consumable Fuels, the industry group average was 4.

Oil and gas companies tend to have greater debt loads because they have greater expenditures on equipment. Different industry groups often have different financial structures so comparing across industries may give you an inaccurate picture.

Many investors use the price-to-sales ratio to supplement their analysis of a company’s earnings because it can help reduce some of the distortions that come with earnings.

The price-to-sales ratio focuses on the ability of the company to sell its products and services. Additionally, the price-to-sales ratio can be helpful for evaluating young growth companies that aren’t yet profitable.

For example, strong sales figures can signal a company’s potential before it turns a profit. Of course, there’s no guarantee that a low price-to-sales ratio will result in the company eventually being profitable.

For example, the price-to-sales ratio doesn’t tell you how well management controls expenses like rent, utilities, wages, and interest payments. A company could have high revenue but also high expenses and end up with a net loss.

Investors need to conduct further research to determine if a company’s management team can turn sales into earnings. Return on equity, return on assets, return on investment, and revenue per employee are financial ratios that help investors evaluate management effectiveness.

Why do investors use Price-to-Sale ratio?

Whether you’re looking to invest in startups or in established companies, the price-to-sales ratio is an important valuation tool that offers insight into how much investors are paying for each Rand of sales a company produces. But, like any analytical tool, the ratio should be used in conjunction with other valuation methods like the price-to-earnings ratio or the return-on-equity ratio. Looking at the details of a company’s financial performance can help you determine if it’s a sound investment.

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William Dube

William Dube is a finance and economic news expert with over 10 years of experience in economic anaylsis, financial product assessment and market analysis. With a numerous certificates from prestigious universities including but not limited to Yale University and the University of Pennyslivenia. William specializes in providing insightful news developments in South Africa and commentary on investment strategies, risk management, and global economic trends. You can contact him on william@rateweb.co.za