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5 Value Picks With Strikingly Low EV/EBITDA Ratios

We have screened value stocks based on EV/EBITDA ratio that offers a clearer picture of a company's valuation and earnings potential.

Price-to-earnings (P/E) is undoubtedly the most commonly used metric in the value investing world. This straightforward, easy-to-calculate ratio enjoys greater popularity among valuation metrics in the investment toolkit and is preferred while uncovering bargain stocks. A widely favored approach by value investors is to chase stocks with a low P/E ratio. But even this equity valuation multiple is not devoid of shortcomings.

Why EV/EBITDA is a Better Alternative?

While P/E is by far the most popular valuation metric, a more complicated metric called EV/EBITDA does a better job in working out the fair market value of a firm. Often viewed as a better substitute to P/E, this ratio offers a clearer picture of a company’s valuation and its earnings potential.

Also dubbed as the enterprise multiple, EV/EBITDA is essentially the enterprise value (EV) of a stock divided by its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). EV is the sum of a company’s market capitalization, its debt and preferred stock minus cash and cash equivalents. Essentially, it is the total value of a company.

EBITDA, the other component of the ratio, gives the true picture of a company’s profitability as it removes the impact of non-cash expenses like depreciation and amortization that depress net earnings. It is also often used as a proxy for cash flows.

Typically, the lower the EV/EBITDA ratio, the more attractive it is. A low EV/EBITDA ratio could signal that a stock is potentially undervalued and vice versa.

However, EV/EBITDA takes into account the debt on a company’s balance sheet that P/E ratio does not. Given this reason, EV/EBITDA is usually used to value possible acquisition targets, as it shows the amount of debt the acquirer has to assume. Companies with a low EV/EBITDA multiple could be seen as attractive takeover candidates.

Another downside of P/E is that it can’t be used to value a loss-making company. A company’s earnings are also subject to accounting estimates and management manipulation. EV/EBITDA, in contrast, is less amenable to manipulation and also can be used to value firms that have negative net earnings but are positive on the EBITDA side.

EV/EBITDA is also a useful tool in measuring the value of firms that are highly leveraged and have a high degree of depreciation. It also allows the comparison of companies with different debt levels.

But EV/EBITDA is not without its limitations. The ratio varies across industries (a high-growth industry typically has higher multiple and vice versa) and is usually not appropriate while comparing stocks in different industries given their diverse capital requirements.

Thus, instead of solely relying on EV/EBITDA, you can combine it with the other major ratios such as price-to-book (P/B), P/E and price-to-sales (P/S) to achieve the desired results.

Screening Criteria

Here are the parameters to screen for value stocks:

EV/EBITDA 12 Months-Most Recent less than X-Industry Median: A lower EV/EBITDA ratio represents a cheaper valuation.

P/E using (F1) less than X-Industry Median: This metric screens stocks that are trading at a discount to their peers.

P/B less than X-Industry Median: A lower P/B compared with the industry average implies that the stock is undervalued.

P/S less than X-Industry Median: The lower the P/S ratio the more attractive the stock is as investors will have to pay a smaller price for the same amount of sales generated by the company.

Estimated One-Year EPS Growth F(1)/F(0) greater than or equal to X-Industry Median: This parameter will help in screening stocks that have growth rates higher than the industry median. This is a meaningful indicator as decent earnings growth always adds to investor optimism.

Average 20-day Volume greater than or equal to 100,000: The addition of this metric ensures that shares can be traded easily.

Current Price greater than or equal to $5: This parameter will help in screening stocks that are trading at a minimum price of $5 or higher.

Zacks Rank less than or equal to 2: No screening is complete without the Zacks Rank, which has proven its worth since inception. It is a fundamental truth that stocks with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) have always managed to beat adversities and outperform the market.

Value Score of less than or equal to B: Our research shows that stocks with a Value Score of A or B when combined with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 offer the best upside potential.

Here are five of the 17 stocks that passed the screen:

ArcBest Corporation ARCB provides freight transportation services and solutions. This Zacks Rank #2 stock has an expected year-over-year earnings growth rate of 185.7% for 2018 and a Value Score of A.

Zions Bancorporation ZION is one of the premier financial services companies in the United States. This Zacks Rank #2 stock has an expected year-over-year earnings growth rate of 42.3% for 2018 and a Value Score of A. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Covenant Transportation Group, Inc. CVTI is a truckload carrier that offers just-in-time and other premium transportation services throughout the United States. This Zacks Rank #2 stock has an expected year-over-year earnings growth rate of 161.9% for 2018 and a Value Score of A.

Seaspan Corporation SSW is a leading independent owner, operator and manager of containerships. This Zacks Rank #2 stock has an expected year-over-year earnings growth rate of 57.6% for 2018. It also has a Value Score of A.

Exelon Corporation EXC is a utility services holding company. This Zacks Rank #2 stock has an expected year-over-year earnings growth rate of 20% for 2018. It also has a Value Score of B.

You can get the rest of the stocks on this list by signing up now for your 2-week free trial to the Research Wizard and start using this screen in your own trading. Further, you can also create your own strategies and test them first before taking the investment plunge.

The Research Wizard is a great place to begin. It's easy to use. Everything is in plain language. And it's very intuitive. Start your Research Wizard trial today. And the next time you read an economic report, open up the Research Wizard, plug your finds in, and see what gems come out.

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Disclosure: Officers, directors and/or employees of Zacks Investment Research may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. An affiliated investment advisory firm may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material.

Disclosure: Performance information for Zacks’ portfolios and strategies are available at: https://www.zacks.com/performance.