Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why Do Large Cap Firm's Trade at a Discount to Market?

Aleph Blog outlines why he believes "behemoth" companies (i.e. firms with a market value greater than $100 billion) trade at relatively compressed price to earnings ratios:

For Behemoth companies to achieve large earnings growth, they have to find monster-sized innovations to do so. Those don’t come along too regularly. Even for a company as creative as Apple (or Google), it becomes progressively more difficult to create products that will raise earnings by a high percentage quarter after quarter.

As a result it should not be a surprise that Behemoth stocks trade at discounts to the market when global growth prospects are poor. They have more assets and free cash flow to put to work than is useful in a bad environment. Not every environment offers large opportunities.
The below chart outlines, by sector, the market cap of the current 39 behemoths using data from a follow up post at Aleph Blog (he adds even more granularity in his post).

I would also add that I believe these behemoths trade at an aggregate discount due in part by their composition. Financials (and to a lesser extent energy firms) trade at a large discount due to the damage they inflicted upon themselves and the threat of future regulatory restrictions that may impede profitability, both of which may force them to dilute shareholders as they raise / write-down capital. Technology firms on the other hand are constantly threatened by innovation and becoming irrelevant by the next generation of firms (i.e. what happened to Yahoo via Google), thus earnings become difficult to project past even a few years.


  1. I have a website where I research stocks under five dollars. I have many years of experience with these type of stocks. I find that the best measurement of how undervalued a stock is is the price to sales ratio of a companies stock. The price to sales ratio is the market cap of a companies stock compared to the amount of sales the company does on an annual bases. A good example of a company with a low price to sales ratio is carrols restaurant group the company has a market cap of just 240 million dollars but does over 800 million dollars in annual sales the company is solidly profitable. In other words the price that the market is valuing the company at just 240 million dollars this is only about one fourth of what the company does in annual sales 800 million dollars. The stock currently trades at about 10 or 11 collars a share under the symbol {TAST} I think the stock could get to 55.00 dollars a share over the next five years. I base this on the current net profit margin of around 1.75% or 14 million dollars on sales of 800 hundred million dollars. If the companies sales were to increase by 50% or 400 million dollars to 1.2 billion dollars over the next five years. And if the companies net profit margin were to expand from 1.75% to 5% or 60 million dollars over the next five years. Than if the companies stock increased in price to where it was trading at a price earnings ratio of 20 this would put the stock at 55 dollars a share. This may seem to be a somewhat optimistic scenario but not really that much. There are many stocks that trade at much higher price earnings ratios when they become popular than 20 times earnings. I find that companies like carrols restaurant group are very rare. I also find that companies that have low price to sales ratios that are profitable or of decent quality tend to become takeover targets or get taken private by private equity firms or the management of the company or other companies in the same business. A good example of a popular stock with a very high price earnings ratios is whole foods market it trades at 35 times annual earnings. If anyone has any question as of the validity of the information presented here any stock broker financial planner or CPA or anyone that knows how to value stocks will confirm everything presented here.

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