Alphabet Inc.'s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 19x might make it look like a sell right now compared to the market in the United States, where around half of the companies have P/E ratios below 14x and even P/E's below 8x are quite common. Although, it's not wise to just take the P/E at face value as there may be an explanation why it's lofty.
While the market has experienced earnings growth lately, Alphabet's earnings have gone into reverse gear, which is not great. One possibility is that the P/E is high because investors think this poor earnings performance will turn the corner. If not, then existing shareholders may be extremely nervous about the viability of the share price.
Keen to find out how analysts think Alphabet's future stacks up against the industry? In that case, our free report is a great place to start.
Is There Enough Growth For Alphabet?
In order to justify its P/E ratio, Alphabet would need to produce impressive growth in excess of the market.
Taking a look back first, the company's earnings per share growth last year wasn't something to get excited about as it posted a disappointing decline of 3.2%. Still, the latest three year period has seen an excellent 120% overall rise in EPS, in spite of its unsatisfying short-term performance. So we can start by confirming that the company has generally done a very good job of growing earnings over that time, even though it had some hiccups along the way.
Shifting to the future, estimates from the analysts covering the company suggest earnings should grow by 11% per annum over the next three years. That's shaping up to be materially higher than the 9.0% per annum growth forecast for the broader market.
With this information, we can see why Alphabet is trading at such a high P/E compared to the market. Apparently shareholders aren't keen to offload something that is potentially eyeing a more prosperous future.
The Final Word
While the price-to-earnings ratio shouldn't be the defining factor in whether you buy a stock or not, it's quite a capable barometer of earnings expectations.
We've established that Alphabet maintains its high P/E on the strength of its forecast growth being higher than the wider market, as expected. At this stage investors feel the potential for a deterioration in earnings isn't great enough to justify a lower P/E ratio. Unless these conditions change, they will continue to provide strong support to the share price.
Many other vital risk factors can be found on the company's balance sheet. Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis for Alphabet with six simple checks on some of these key factors.
It's important to make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20x).
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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