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 Lakeland Bancorp, Inc. LBAI 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:
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, Lakeland Bancorp has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 12.00, 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 17.58. If we focus on the long-term PE trend, Lakeland Bancorp’s current PE level puts it below its midpoint of 13.85 over the past five years. Moreover, the current level stands well below the highs for the stock, suggesting that it can be a solid entry point.
Further, the stock’s PE also compares favorably with the Zacks Finance sector’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 14.07. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is undervalued right now, compared to its peers.
We should also point out that Lakeland Bancorp has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of just 11.24, so it is fair to say that a slightly more value-oriented path may be ahead for Lakeland Bancorp stock in the near term too.
An often overlooked ratio that can still be a great indicator of value is the price/cash flow metric. This ratio doesn’t take amortization and depreciation into account, so can give a more accurate picture of the financial health in a business. This is a preferred metric to some valuation investors because cash flows are (a) generally less prone to manipulation by the company’s management, and (b) are less affected by variation in accounting policies between different companies.
The ratio is generally applied to find out whether a company’s stock is overpriced or underpriced with reference to its cash flows generation potential compared with its competitors. However, it is not commonly used for cross-industry comparison, as the average price to cash flow ratio varies from industry to industry.
In this case, Lakeland Bancorp’s P/CF ratio of 10.82 is lower than the Zacks Banks-NorthEast industry average of 12.34, which indicates that the stock is somewhat undervalued in this respect.
Broad Value Outlook
In aggregate, Lakeland Bancorp currently has a Value Score of B, putting it into the top 40% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes Lakeland Bancorp a solid choice for value investors, and some of its other key metrics make this pretty clear too.
For example, the P/CF ratio (another great indicator of value) comes in at 10.21, which is far better than the industry average of 11.08. Clearly, LBAI is a solid choice on the value front from multiple angles.
What About the Stock Overall?
Though Lakeland Bancorp 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 F and a Momentum Score of C. This gives LBAI a Zacks VGM score — or its overarching fundamental grade — of D. (You can read more about the Zacks Style Scores here >>)
Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been robust at best. The current quarter has seen two estimates go higher in the past sixty days compared to none lower, while the full year estimate has seen three up and none down in the same time period.
This has had a positive impact on the consensus estimate though as the current quarter consensus estimate has risen by 2.9% in the past two months, while the full year estimate has increased by 5.9%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:
Lakeland Bancorp, Inc. Price and Consensus
Lakeland Bancorp, Inc. price-consensus-chart | Lakeland Bancorp, Inc. Quote
This somewhat bullish trend is why the stock has just a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and why we are looking for outperformance from the company in the near term.
Lakeland Bancorp is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. Apart from Zacks Rank #1, it has a sluggish industry rank (among Bottom 29% of more than 250 industries), which makes it hard to get too excited about this company overall. In fact, over the past two years, the Zacks Banks-Northeast industry has clearly underperformed the broader market, as you can see below:
So, value investors might want to wait for analyst sentiment to turn around in this name first, but once that happens, this stock could be a compelling pick.
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