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Should Value Investors Choose International Paper (IP) Now?

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Value investing is easily one of the most popular ways to find great stocks in any market environment. After all, who wouldn’t want to find stocks that are either flying under the radar and are compelling buys, or offer up tantalizing discounts when compared to fair value?

One way to find these companies is by looking at several key metrics and financial ratios, many of which are crucial in the value stock selection process. Let’s put International Paper Company (IP - Free Report) stock into this equation and find out if it is a good choice for value-oriented investors right now, or if investors subscribing to this methodology should look elsewhere for top picks:

PE Ratio

A key metric that value investors always look at is the Price to Earnings Ratio, or PE for short. This shows us how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of earnings in a given stock and is easily one of the most popular financial ratios in the world. The best use of the PE ratio is to compare the stock’s current PE ratio with: a) where this ratio has been in the past; b) how it compares to the average for the industry/sector; and c) how it compares to the market as a whole.

On this front, International Paper has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 14.9, as you can see in the chart below:



This level actually compares pretty favorably with the market at large, as the PE for the S&P 500 stands at about 20.5. If we focus on the long-term PE trend, International Paper’s current PE level puts it below its midpoint of 15.6 over the past five years. Moreover, the current level stands well below the highs suggesting that it could be a solid entry point.



Further, the stock’s PE also compares favorably with the Zacks Basic Materials sector’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 17.8. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.
 


We should also point out that International Paper has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of just 11.0, so it is fair to say that a slightly more value-oriented path may be ahead for International Paper stock in the near term too.

P/S Ratio

Another key metric to note is the Price/Sales ratio. This approach compares a given stock’s price to its total sales, where a lower reading is generally considered better. Some people like this metric more than other value-focused ones because it looks at sales, something that is far harder to manipulate with accounting tricks than earnings.

Right now, International Paper has a P/S ratio of about 1.0. This is much lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.3 right now.
 


Broad Value Outlook

In aggregate, International Paper currently has a Value Score of A, putting it into the top 20% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes International Paper a solid choice for value investors, and some of its other key metrics make this pretty clear too.

For example, the PEG ratio for International Paper is just 1.2, a level that is far lower than the industry average of 2.1. The PEG ratio is a modified PE ratio that takes into account the stock’s earnings growth rate. Additionally, its P/CF ratio (another great indicator of value) comes in at 7.6, which is better than the industry average of 8.0. Clearly, IP is a solid choice on the value front from multiple angles.

What About the Stock Overall?

Though International Paper might be a good choice for value investors, there are plenty of other factors to consider before investing in this name. In particular, it is worth noting that the company has a Growth Score of B and a Momentum Score of A. This gives IP a Zacks VGM score — or its overarching fundamental grade — of A. (You can read more about the Zacks Style Scores here >>)

Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been mixed at best. The current quarter has seen three estimates go lower in the past sixty days compared to no upward revisions, while the full year estimate has seen five upward and no downward revisions in the same time period.

This has had just a small impact on the consensus estimate though as the current quarter consensus estimate has declined by 2.2% in the past two months, while the full year estimate has increased 3.8%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:

Further, the company with long-term earnings growth rate of 9.5% sports a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), which is why we are looking for outperformance from the company in the near term.

Bottom Line

International Paper is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. Despite having a Zacks Rank #3, the stock belongs to an industry which is ranked among the Top 17% out of more than 250 Zacks industries, which indicates that broader factors are favorable for the company. Further, over the past two years, the industry has surpassed the broader market, as you can see below:



So, it might pay for value investors to delve deeper into the company’s prospects, as fundamentals indicate that this stock could be a compelling pick.

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