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Is Alliant Energy Corporation's (NASDAQ:LNT) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

Simply Wall St

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This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Alliant Energy Corporation's (NASDAQ:LNT), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is Alliant Energy's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 22.87. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 4.4%.

View our latest analysis for Alliant Energy

How Do You Calculate Alliant Energy's P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Alliant Energy:

P/E of 22.87 = $50.27 ÷ $2.2 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.'

Does Alliant Energy Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Alliant Energy has a P/E ratio that is roughly in line with the electric utilities industry average (22.7).

NasdaqGS:LNT Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 18th 2019

Alliant Energy's P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. Further research into factors such as insider buying and selling, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Alliant Energy saw earnings per share improve by -6.1% last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 4.1%.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

Alliant Energy's Balance Sheet

Alliant Energy's net debt is 51% of its market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.

The Verdict On Alliant Energy's P/E Ratio

Alliant Energy's P/E is 22.9 which is above average (17.9) in its market. With relatively high debt, and reasonably modest earnings per share growth over twelve months, it's safe to say the market believes the company will improve its growth in the future.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.' So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Alliant Energy. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.