LONDON -- When weighing up a potential investment, we need to look forward rather than backward. If you buy a stake in a business, it's the future profits that count -- and the stock market will value your shares based on future expectations.
With that in mind, it can be helpful to review what expert City analysts are expecting a company to earn in the coming years. These expectations can be compared to the share price and give you a better idea of how the stock market is valuing the business.
Analysts expect Vodafone's profits to be 16 pence per share in the coming 12 months. This means that compared to today's share price of 191 pence, the market is valuing Vodafone' shares on a forward price-to-earnings multiple of 12.
The experts seem fairly confident in their forecast for this year's profits, with the lowest of the 26 estimates only a penny lower than the average, at 15 pence per share. Looking ahead, the consensus then calls for an improvement in Vodafone's earnings to 18 pence per share for 2015, and then 19 pence in 2016. However, the data indicates Vodafone's revenues meanwhile might only expand from 44 billion pounds this year to 47 billion pounds by 2017, annual growth of less than 1.4%.
The modest valuation perhaps reflects the reality that a telecom behemoth like Vodafone will generally find it difficult to grow while keeping necessary capital expenditures low. However, there's more than meets the eye when analyzing Vodafone's true intrinsic value, such as the speculative factors surrounding its relationship with Verizon.
Whether these projections and the current valuation make the shares of Vodafone "fairly priced" is for you to decide.
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Mark Rogers has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Vodafone. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.