Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Assystem (EPA:ASY) share price has dived 33% in the last thirty days. Indeed the recent decline has arguably caused some bitterness for shareholders who have held through the 37% drop over twelve months.
Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more attractive to potential buyers. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
Does Assystem Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 10.94 that there is some investor optimism about Assystem. As you can see below, Assystem has a higher P/E than the average company (9.1) in the professional services industry.
Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Assystem shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
Assystem increased earnings per share by a whopping 40% last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 16% per year over the last five years. I'd therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).
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.
So What Does Assystem's Balance Sheet Tell Us?
Net debt totals 18% of Assystem's market cap. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.
The Bottom Line On Assystem's P/E Ratio
Assystem's P/E is 10.9 which is below average (13.5) in the FR market. The EPS growth last year was strong, and debt levels are quite reasonable. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue. Because analysts are predicting more growth in the future, one might have expected to see a higher P/E ratio. You can take a closer look at the fundamentals, here. Given Assystem's P/E ratio has declined from 16.4 to 10.9 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is significantly less confident about the business today, than it was back then. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for a contrarian, it may signal opportunity.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Assystem. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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. Thank you for reading.