Shares of Walmart Inc. (WMT) are appropriate for many investors who are seeking principal protection and current income from dividends. With a financial performance analysis, Walmart stock also may be suitable for value investors, or investors who favor stocks with low share prices relative to the company's earnings and book value. Historically, Walmart has been seen as a value investment; however, its fundamentals may be changing making it less attractive to conservative value investors.

Determining a stock's suitability for your financial goals requires analyzing specific ratios from the company's financial statements and comparing those financial ratios to benchmarks and to other companies in the industry. Financial ratios shed light on a company's direction, its probability of remaining solvent, and whether its stock is overvalued, undervalued, or valued just right. Here are five key financial ratios that are important in paying attention to when evaluating Walmart.

Key Takeaways

  • Typically considered a blue-chip stock, Walmart Inc. (WMT)'s financial performance is worth comparing to competitors such as Costco and Target.
  • Compared to the aforementioned competitors, Walmart has a stronger P/E ratio and P/B ratio.
  • However, when looking at return on equity, debt/equity ratio, and its current ratio, Walmart falters.

Price-Earnings Ratio

The price-earnings (P/E) ratio is the primary financial ratio that fundamental analysts use to value a company's stock. The ratio compares the share price to earnings per share (EPS). The average P/E ratio varies by industry, but across the board, it is around 15.

As of Q2 2020, Walmart's P/E ratio is about 23.88, meaning that WMT shares trade in the market at around 24 times the earnings per share. The P/E ratio for WMT shares has been rising, and prior to 2017, the P/E ratio for Walmart shares tended to hover just below 14x or 15x. Still, this price-to-earnings is significantly lower than the P/E ratio of rival Costco (COST) of 36.19. However, the company's other big competitor, Target (TGT), has a P/E ratio of just around 18.77. This suggests that Walmart is a viable play for value investors but has experienced some price action relative to its earnings lately that may make some value investors uncomfortable. At the very least, the stock does not appear to be grossly overvalued based on earnings.

Price-to-Book Ratio

The price-to-book (P/B) ratio compares the company's market value, which dictates what shareholders pay to own the company, to its book value, which dictates what the company is really worth from an accounting perspective.

Value investors like to see a P/B ratio below 3.0. A P/B ratio below 1.0 suggests an extreme bargain stock. As of Q2 2020, Walmart's P/B ratio was 5.16 (higher than the value investor limit), compared to 5.54 for Target and 8.24 for Costco. Again, Walmart shows characteristics of a reasonably good value buy relative to its competitors.

Return on Equity

Return on equity (ROE) expresses net income as a percentage of shareholders' equity. A company's ROE is a great indicator of how efficiently its management team is performing. Savvy investors want to see that management is able to parlay the company's equity into strong earnings. Hence, a higher ROE is usually a better ROE.

ROE values above 10% are considered strong; an ROE above 25% is considered to be excellent. As of Q2 2020, Walmart's ROE was at a precarious 7.2%. Its competitors had significantly stronger ROE numbers: Costco's ROE came in at 22.9% at the end of Feb. 2020 while Target's ROE was 9.9% at the end of April 2020.

Debt/Equity Ratio

Even a mature, profitable company sits in a tenuous financial position if it cannot manage its debt. Recessions and market downturns expose companies that have been too reckless with their debt management. The debt/equity (D/E) ratio expresses a company's total debt as a percentage of its equity. Ideally, a company's debt should be lower than its equity, which means a D/E ratio of under 100% is preferable.

As of the end of the last fiscal year, Walmart's D/E ratio was 97.01%, indicating a large level of debt. By comparison, Target's D/E ratio of 118.1% indicates its debt load has overtaken the value of its equity. Costco's D/E ratio stands at an impressive 47.5%.

Current Ratio

A company's current ratio measures its ability to pay its current debts, defined as those due within one year, and is a measure of a company's short-term liquidity. It does so by comparing the company's current liabilities with its current assets, meaning those that can be converted to cash within a year or less.

The formula is current assets divided by current liabilities. A value of 1.0 or higher is preferred. Many value investors consider 1.5 to be an ideal current ratio. Walmart's current ratio comes in low at 0.79. Meanwhile, Target's current ratio is 0.89, and Costco's is 1.01.

All three companies have current ratios around 1, and the difference between them is insignificant. While a slightly higher current ratio would be good to see from Walmart, its other financial ratios offer confidence that paying debts should pose no problem to the company.

The Bottom Line

Walmart has traditionally been viewed as a stalwart of value investing. A blue-chip company that dominated the retail space, its fundamentals, based on ratio analysis, indicates that its trend has been away from the key metrics sought by a value investor. In fact, Walmart has transgressed several of these thresholds in terms of its debt load, share price relative to earnings, and liquidity status. This may be due in part to increased competition from online retailers like Amazon, as well as mounting pressure from brick and mortar stores like Target and Costco.