Analysts Continue To Use Wrong Benjamin Graham Formula

Includes: BVN, GFI, HFC, HNRG
by: Serenity

Benjamin Graham was Warren Buffett's professor and mentor at Columbia Business School. Buffett even named his son - Howard Graham Buffett - after Graham. In the preface to Graham's book - "The Intelligent Investor" - Buffett calls it "by far the best book about investing ever written."

Serenity's Benjamin Graham Screener applies Graham's 16 financial criteria to 4500 NYSE and NASDAQ stocks to find Defensive, Enterprising and NCAV grade Graham stocks today.

Last year, we briefly saw a formula that Graham actually warned against, but is widely used as "The Benjamin Graham Formula". Today, we will look in greater depth into how this confusion came about, what Graham actually wrote and finally, some stocks that meet the more complex formulas that Graham actually did recommend.

The Wrong Intrinsic Value Formula

The formula itself is mentioned in "Chapter 11: Security Analysis for the Lay Investor" of Graham's seminal book "The Intelligent Investor" as:

Value = Current (Normal) Earnings X (8.5 plus twice the expected annual growth rate)

As shown in the scan above, Graham intended this formula to produce figures close to formal appraisals related to the valuation of growth stocks.

He then uses this formula to make the converse calculation of determining what rates of growth are anticipated by the current market price of a given stock, and then explains why such expectations are almost always unrealistic.

The Cause of the Confusion

What seems to have started the confusion is that the most commonly available edition of the book today is not the one originally written by Graham, but the new version with commentary by Jason Zweig.

In this edition, all the Foot Notes from the original book have been moved to the end of the book to make place for Zweig's commentary. For example, if we look at the same page with the formula in the original book, we see the Foot Note where Graham cautions against using this formula.

But in the new book, the cautionary note is now on Page 585, where no one is likely to see it.

There is also a not-so-clearly labeled warning about the use of such simplistic or predictive methods present in both editions. But again, this is given a few pages later and is easy to miss.

Given below are some of the more prominent Analytical Tools and Websites using this wrong formula. A quick search online will bring up lots more.

1. Old School Value

2. Graham Investor

3. Fast Graphs

4. Stockopedia

Thus, what started out as a simple editing mistake seems to have snowballed into a gross distortion of fact; turning what was to be a shining example of what not to do, into the most commonly used Graham method today.

The Formulas Graham Actually Gave

The formulas Graham actually recommended are far more complex and given in "Chapter 14: Stock Selection for the Defensive Investor" and "Chapter 15: Stock Selection for the Enterprising Investor".

These formulas and their methods of application have been discussed in extreme detail in the article How To Build A Complete Benjamin Graham Portfolio.

Given below are some of the stocks meeting these more complex Graham formulas today:

Company Name

HollyFrontier Corp

Hallador Energy Co

Compania De Minas Buenaventura

Gold Fields ADR






Graham Stock Type






$20,090.00 Million

$141.32 Million

$1,560.00 Million

$3,530.00 Million

Current Assets

$4,470.27 Million

$34.86 Million

$803.66 Million

$3,875.50 Million

Current Liabilities

$1,654.44 Million

$11.05 Million

$350.01 Million

$2,200.60 Million

Long Term Debt

$1,336.24 Million

$11.40 Million

$173.49 Million

$1,828.80 Million

Years of Uninterrupted Dividends





Years of Uninterrupted Earnings





Excess Earnings Growth over 10 years





Tangible Book Value










Graham Price





Current Price





Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: The results were arrived at by automated quantitative analysis and were not verified manually. Verify the validity of the data used - most importantly, for any recent stock splits - before making an investment decision.