The Price-to-Book ratio (P/B ratio) is a financial tool used to assess if the firm’s stock is under or overvalued.  The formula assesses the differences between the book value and the share pricing.  The share price is the price the market believes the firm would be worth if it were to be acquired today. The book value is from financial statements, which is equal to the company’s net assets.

The Formula of the Price to Book Ratio

P/B ratio = market price per share / book value per share

The market pricing is the current stock price, while the book value is calculated by subtracting liabilities from assets. The result is divided by the number of shares outstanding.

What the P/B Ratio Assesses

Price-to-Book ratios demonstrate the value that the market would attach to the equity relative to the book value. The market value is a predictive tool that considers the future cash flows of the company. On the other hand, the book value is an accounting measure. It would be evaluated according to costs, reflecting the past issuance of equity altered by the profits and losses less dividends.

If the company liquidates the assets and pays off all of the remaining debt, then the value left would be the book value, which means its assessment on paper. The ratio gives a check concerning stakeholders looking for growth at reasonable rates. A massive difference between the Return-on-Equity (ROE) and Price-to-Book ratio usually illustrates a red flag. The overvalued growth stocks as well show a combination of high Price-to-Book ratios and low ROE. If the ROE is growing, though, the Price to Book should also be showing growth.

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Investors may use both the market and book values to evaluate if the company is undervalued or overpriced. A Price-to-Book value that rates above 1 shows that investors are willing to pay more for the company shares than what the assets are worth. That may illustrate the firm has healthy predictions for the future, and investors want to pay premiums based on that potential.

Should the Price-to-Book ratio be less than 1, then the stock would be worth less compared to the asset value, which may signal a strong investment opportunity. Companies can be undervalued for several reasons. For example, the investors may purchase all of the firm’s outstanding shares, sell the resources, and get profits because the assets are more valuable than accumulated stock.

The valuation approach is the only one that investors can use to see if the investment has become overpriced. This method does not necessarily consider dividends. The stakeholders are usually willing to pay more for the shares, which will provide dividends regularly. There are several other factors like this which the basic calculation does not necessarily consider. The real goal is to issue the investors with an idea of whether the sale price should be.

Disadvantages of Using the Price-to-Book Ratio

The investors might find the ratio useful, considering the book value of equity gives a relatively stable and intuitive metric compared to the market rate. The Price-to-Book ratio would also be used for the organizations with positive book values and negative earnings because the negative ones render the Price-to-Earnings ratios irrelevant. There are not many companies with negative book values while also having negative yields.

However, when accounting standards via firms vary, the Price-to-Book ratios are not comparable, particularly for firms from different countries. At the same time, Price-to-Book ratios may be less useful for service and information technology firms that do not have many tangible assets on the balance sheets. The book value may become negative due to several negative earnings, making the Price-to-Book ratio useless because of relative valuation.

The other potential issue to keep an eye on when it comes to the Price-to-Book ratio, including write-offs and buybacks, which can alter the book value. During the search for overvalued stocks, the investors would have different valuation measures to complete the Price-to-Book ratio.

It is also advisable to consider the hard assets. If the company has a heavy debt load, then the asset figure utilized within the calculation would be small, and it can alter the Price-to-Book ratio produced. If the money it has borrowed generates a more significant profit and future growth than the costs of borrowing it, then the high Price-to-Book ratio is artificial and will be ignored at times.

Using Price-to-Book Ratio to Evaluate Stocks

The Price-to-Book ratio should not be utilized as a single assessment of a stock considering a low price to book may mean an undervalued as it may come from underlying problems. One of the weaknesses in the Price-to-Book ratios is that it does factor in future earnings prospects or intangible assets. The ratio also assists in identifying the overvalued firms with surging stock prices that have no assets.

Other potential problems of the Price-to-Book ratio include that recent acquisitions and write-offs or buybacks may distort the equation’s book value. During the search for undervalued stocks, the investors need to consider different valuation approaches, which will complement the Price-to-Book ratio. A measure that is usually matched to the Price-to-Book ratio is the Return on Equity. It shows the level of profit a company can generate according to the available shareholder equity.


Chris Douthit
Chris Douthit

Chris Douthit, MBA, CSPO, is a former professional trader for Goldman Sachs and the founder of OptionStrategiesInsider.com. His work, market predictions, and options strategies approach has been featured on NASDAQ, Seeking Alpha, Marketplace, and Hackernoon.