When weighing up a potential investment, we always need to look forward rather than backwards. 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, to give you a better idea of how the stock market is valuing the business.
Today I'm looking at the earnings per share (EPS) forecasts for BP (LSE: BP) (NYSE: BP.US), the FTSE 100 oil giant. All my figures are courtesy of S&P Capital IQ.
Analysts expect BP's profits to be 54 pence per share this year. This estimate means that, compared to today's share price of 460p, the market is valuing BP's shares on a forward price-to-earnings multiple of 8.5.
Looking ahead, the consensus then calls for a rapid improvement in BP's earnings to 60 pence per share for 2014 before jumping to 64p in 2015. The data also indicates BP's revenues might shrink by as much as 2% a year over the same time period, from $370bn to around $342bn.
While BP's current valuation may seem undemanding, there remain serious questions concerning the company's ability to replace its oil fields over time, alongside the industry's capital-intensive economics.
Of course, whether these questions, the City's profit projections and the current valuation make the shares of BP 'fairly priced' is for you to decide.
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