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9 key definitions to understand the valuation and earnings of companies

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Valuation of Companies and 9 key definitions

After skimming through The Fast Forward MBA in Finance, Second Edition by John Tracy, a few key concepts (such as EPS, ROE, market capitalisation and P/E) kept coming up again and again when dealing with the value of companies. When read in combination with Joel Greenblatt’s book, The Little Book That Beats the Market which simplifies things to some degree, an understanding of these concepts is required to begin understanding whether a company is undervalued or overvalued on the stock exchange and hence whether you should invest in the company.

It is important to firstly recognise that the value of a company’s shares on the stock exchange is only a representation of what the public will pay at any particular time for a stake in the company and is not a direct representation of the company’s true value per se. This fact is actually why smart investors should always be able to make money investing the stock market. For example, if an investor is able to identify a under or overvalued company, they can make the appropriate decision to either buy the stock if it is undervalued or sell the stock (we’ll come to how you can sell stock you don’t have later) if it is overvalued. Over time, whether it is overnight or over 5 years, the market will correct itself and the investor will profit from his analysis of the companies true value compared with the market’s perception of its value.

In later posts, I will describe how Greenblatt’s book proposes a magic formula strategy for identifying undervalued companies based on a company having a high earnings yield and a high return on capital. Firstly, however, this post will aim to explain these concepts so that we can get familiar with them first. Some of the definitions below are drawn from Tracy’s glossary in The Fast Forward MBA in Finance, Second Edition.

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