Consulting company Accenture (ACN 0.12%) saw its stock lift as much as 10% on a wave of enthusiastic buying earlier today. As we approach the final hour of trading, Accenture stock has given back some of those gains. But it's still up about 6.4% as of 2:55 p.m. ET and valued at $263 billion in total.
But is that too much to pay for Accenture?
To recap the results, Accenture reported earning $2.78 per share on $15 billion in revenue for its fiscal first quarter 2022. This brings total revenue for the past 12 months to $53.7 billion (valuing the stock at 4.9 times current year sales) and total earnings to $6.2 billion (valuing the stock at 42.2 times earnings). Free cash flow year to date is a bit higher -- $7.3 billion -- resulting in a price-to-free-cash-flow ratio of 36.
Any way you look at it, the conclusion is the same: This is one very pricey stock.
Granted, investors today don't seem to be looking at it that way, and I get where they're coming from. Accenture just posted 27% year-over-year sales growth for its first fiscal quarter, and bookings were up 30%, foreshadowing perhaps even stronger sales gains to come. Pro forma profits were up 28% year over year, and even profits when calculated according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) grew a very respectable 20%.
Long term, however, analysts who follow Accenture stock see this year's profits growth as an aberration. They project a long-term earnings growth rate of less than 11%, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Viewed from that long-term perspective, therefore, what we've got here in Accenture is a stock selling for a price/earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio of nearly 4.0 (hint: Value investors try to stick to investing in stocks selling for a PEG ratio of less than 1.0) and so trading for about four times what a value investor like me would call a "bargain."
By that yardstick, I've got to conclude: Accenture's business had a great quarter, but Accenture stock simply costs too much.