Value investing starts with low PE stocks, but it shouldn’t be an investor’s only financial metric.
What do Warren Buffett, Ben Graham, Seth Klarman, and Peter Lynch all have in common? Besides being wildly successful investors, they’re all are adherents to value investing, a method where one attempts to buy securities that have a higher intrinsic value than their current price.
One of the most basic forms of value investing is to find stocks with low price-to-earnings (PE) ratios. The PE ratio is a simple ratio that divides the current price per share of a company by the earnings per share over the trailing-12-month period. The logic behind buying low PE stocks is simple: As an investor, you are ultimately entitled to a pro-rata portion of company earnings, so paying the lowest cost, or multiple, for those earnings is preferable than paying a higher multiple. Essentially, your dollar is buying a larger portion of company earnings than it would with a high-multiple stock.
One of our favorite investors at The Acquirer’s Multiple – Stock Screener is Bill Miller.
Miller served as the Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Legg Mason Capital Management and is remembered for beating the S&P 500 Index for 15 straight years when he ran the Legg Mason Value Trust.
One of the best resources for investors is the Legg Mason Shareholder Letters. One of the best letters ever written by Miller was his Q4 2006 letter in which he discussed the end of his 15 year ‘winning streak’ and how too many investors miss the most important aspect of investing by focusing on value or growth. Miller writes, “The question is not growth or value, but where is the best value?” It’s a must-read for all investors.
Here’s an excerpt from that letter:
Calendar year 2006 was the first year since I took over sole management of the Legg Mason Value Trust in the late fall of 1990 that the Fund trailed the return of the S&P 500. Those 15 consecutive years of outperformance led to a lot of publicity, commentary, and questions about “the streak,” with comparisons being made to Cal Ripken’s consecutive games played streak, or Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, or Greg Maddux’s 17 consecutive years with 15 or more wins, among others. Now that it is over, I thought shareholders might be interested in a few reflections on it, and on what significance, if any, it has.