What Is Considered a Good Price-to-Book Ratio?

Use P/B ratios to help evaluate stock

The price-to-book (P/B) ratio has been favored by value investors for decades and is widely used by market analysts. Traditionally, any value under 1.0 is considered a good P/B value, indicating a potentially undervalued stock. However, value investors often consider stocks with a P/B value under 3.0.

It is important to note that it can be difficult to pinpoint a specific numeric value of a "good" P/B ratio when determining if a stock is undervalued and therefore, a good investment. Ratio analysis can vary by industry, and a good P/B ratio for one industry may be a poor ratio for another.

Key Takeaways

  • The price-to-book (P/B) ratio of a company's stock price to its book value on its balance sheet.
  • The book value is the amount of money a firm can reasonably expect if it sold all of its assets at current market prices.
  • Stock prices are often quite a bit higher than the book value, so a P/B under 1.0 often indicates a good value.
  • Value investors often use a P/B of 3.0 as a good threshold.
  • High P/B's, similarly, may indicate an overvalued stock.
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What Is Price-To-Book Ratio?

The Basics of the P/B Ratio

The P/B ratio compares a company's market capitalization, or market value, to its book value. Specifically, it compares the company's stock price to its book value per share (BVPS). The market capitalization (company's value) is its share price multiplied by the number of outstanding shares. The book value is the total assets - total liabilities and can be found in a company's balance sheet. In other words, if a company liquidated all of its assets and paid off all its debt, the value remaining would be the company's book value.

It's helpful to identify some general parameters or a range for P/B value, and then consider various other factors and valuation measures that more accurately interpret the P/B ratio and forecast a company's potential for growth.

Book value ignores intangible assets such as human capital, a company's brand name, goodwill, patents, and other intellectual property.

Calculating the P/B Ratio

As stated earlier, the P/B ratio examines a company's stock price to its BVPS. The ratio is calculated as follows:

P/B Ratio = Market Price per Share ÷ Book Value per Share (BVPS)

where:

  • BVPS = (Total Shareholder Equity - Preferred Equity) ÷ Total Outstanding Shares

Example

As an example, assume that XYZ, Corp. has a market capitalization of $10 million. Looking at XYZ's balance sheet, the value of tangible assets amounts to a book value of $5 million. The P/B ratio is therefore 10/5 = 2.0x.

Using the P/B Ratio to Evaluate Stocks

The P/B ratio should not be used as a single evaluation of a stock because, while a low P/B may mean an undervalued company, it can also be a result of serious underlying problems within that company. A weakness in a P/B Ratio evaluation is that it fails to factor in things such as future earning prospects or intangible assets. However, the P/B ratio helps to identify hyped-up companies that have surging stock prices with no assets.

Other potential problems in using the P/B ratio stem from the fact that any number of things, such as recent acquisitions, recent write-offs, or share buybacks, can distort the book value figure in the equation. In searching for undervalued stocks, investors should consider multiple valuation measures to complement the P/B ratio.

One measure commonly used is return on equity (ROE) which indicates how much profit a company generates from shareholders' equity. P/B ratio and ROE usually correlate well, and any large discrepancy between them may indicate a cause for concern.

What Does a High P/B Ratio Mean?

A high P/B ratio indicates that the market values a company's shares far higher than the mere value of its assets. This could be because the company is in a services industry, where human capital is more prevalent than fixed assets. It could also indicate people are paying a premium to book value due to a high return on assets (ROA). In some cases, however, a high P/B may be a red flag, indicating that the stock could be overvalued.

What Does P/B Ratio Tell You?

The P/B ratio measures the market's valuation of a company relative to the current value of the assets on its books, if they were to be sold immediately. Often, a company's market price will exceed this value since a company is worth more than simply the assets it owns.

Is P/B Ratio Important?

Value investors often look to the P/B ratio to spot relatively undervalued shares in the market. This approach suggests that companies be trading for significantly less than their actual worth.

The Bottom Line

Investors may find the P/B ratio to be a useful metric because it can provide a good way to compare a company's market capitalization to its book value. But determining a standard and an acceptable price-to-book ratio isn't always easy. As mentioned above, this varies by industry. In some cases, a lower P/B ratio could mean the stock is undervalued, but it may also point to fundamental problems with the company.

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