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Are Tesco PLC, Vodafone Group plc & BG Group plc Really Worth Buying At Today’s Prices?

Something strange is happening to the valuations of FTSE 100 giants Tesco (LSE: TSCO), Vodafone Group (LSE: VOD) (NASDAQ: VOD.US) and BG Group (LSE: BG).

Each of these firms trades on a 2015 forecast P/E of between 22 and 36, thanks to a collapse in profits.

For investors, this creates a bit of a dilemma: should you wait for earnings to recover, or should you look for new opportunities?

Tesco

The latest consensus forecasts for Tesco suggest the UK’s largest supermarket will report earnings per share of 10.6p for 2014/15 and 10.9p for 2015/16. That’s less than half the 23.8p per share reported for 2013/14.

As a result, Tesco shares currently trade on a 2016 forecast P/E of 22.5 and a prospective yield of just 1.5% — a combination usually reserved for fast-growing companies. Investors clearly expect a return to past glories, but is this realistic?

I’m not sure: as Tesco recovers, I expect operating margins to be lower than in the past, resulting in earnings per share and dividends below historic averages.

Vodafone

Lacklustre performance in the eurozone has cut Vodafone’s earnings, but the big hit to profits was the firm’s decision to sell its stake in US mobile operator Verizon Wireless.

Since then, Vodafone has made a few mid-sized acquisitions and has upgraded its 4G network. However, given that the firm’s shares trade on a 2016 forecast P/E of 35 and pay an uncovered 5% dividend, I believe more is required.

In my view, a big acquisition, taking the firm to into the quad-play sector, is likely: Virgin Media, TalkTalk and even Sky could all be possibilities.

BG Group

Falling oil prices, flagging production, costly projects and a rising tide of debt mean that BG’s earnings are expected to fall by 65% to $0.43 per share in 2015, before recovering to $0.86 in 2016 — giving a 2016 P/E of around 16.

In some ways I think BG is the most attractively valued stock of the three. New chief executive Helge Lund is very highly regarded in the oil industry, and there’s no real reason to think that the firm’s plans to ramp up production from newly completed projects in 2016 won’t succeed.

However, a more prudent approach might be to wait to see if Mr Lund reveals any nasty surprises in his first results statement in May: after then, BG shares should be a less risky buy.

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Roland Head owns shares of Tesco and Vodafone Group. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Sky. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of Tesco. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.