Is Now The Time To Buy Tesco?

I'm always searching for shares that can help ordinary investors like you make money from the stock market.

So right now I am trawling through the FTSE 100 and giving my verdict on every member of the blue-chip index. Simply put, I'm hoping to pinpoint the very best buying opportunities in today's uncertain market.

Today I am looking at Tesco (LSE: TSCO) (NASDAQOTH: TSCDY.US) to determine whether you should consider buying the shares at 356p.

I am assessing each company on several ratios:

Price/Earnings (P/E): Does the share look good value when compared against its competitors?

Price Earnings Growth (PEG): Does the share look good value factoring in predicted growth?

Yield: Does the share provide a solid income for investors?

Dividend Cover: Is the dividend sustainable?

So let's look at the numbers:

Stock Price 3-yr EPS growth Projected P/E PEG Yield 3-yr dividend growth Dividend cover
Tesco 356p 23% 11 N/A 4.2% 14% 2.5

The consensus analyst estimate for next year's earnings per share is 32p (down 14%) and dividend per share is 14.7p (no change).

Trading on a projected P/E of 11, Tesco appears to be slightly more expensive than its main London-listed competitors, Wm Morrison Supermarkets and JSainsbury, which trade on forward P/Es of 9.5 and 10.2 respectively. Unfortunately, Tesco's higher P/E and falling near-term growth give a negative PEG ratio, which cannot help with my analysis.

Tesco supports a 4.2% yield, which is slightly lower than the company's major competitors, which offer an average yield of 4.6%. That said, Tesco has a three-year compounded dividend growth rate of 14%, implying the payout will continue to grow in-line with the company's competitors.

Tesco's dividend is around two-and-a-half times covered, giving the firm plenty room for further payout growth.

Does Tesco deserve its current premium over its competitors?

Personally I have always been a fan of Tesco. However, I currently believe the shares look overvalued. Although the company has made significant progress restructuring and re-organising its business since the profit warning last year, I feel Tesco still has a long way to go before it is back on track.

Still, Tesco has something its major UK competitors do not have and that is international diversification. In particular, Tesco has access to the fast-growing economies of South East Asia. Indeed, I can see that during the last quarter of 2012, Tesco saw sales growth of 8% in this region.

Unfortunately, Tesco's international presence does expose it to the hostile economic environment within Europe, where sales fell 2.4% during the last quarter of 2012. Furthermore, Tesco's highly criticised US operations continue to be a drag on the company. However, Tesco has initiated a review of its US business and a plan is expected to be announced in April.

Nonetheless, despite last year's worries about the company's future prospects, Tesco has defied the critics and its turnaround plan appears to be making some progress.

So overall, despite Tesco's improving outlook I believe the company currently looks overpriced and reckon now does not look to be a good time to buy Tesco at 356p.

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In the meantime, please stay tuned for my next verdict on a FTSE 100 share.

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