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Do You Like Avista Corporation (NYSE:AVA) At This P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at Avista Corporation's (NYSE:AVA) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. What is Avista's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 16.50. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 6.1%.

View our latest analysis for Avista

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Avista:

P/E of 16.50 = $48.09 ÷ $2.91 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

How Does Avista's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (21.5) for companies in the integrated utilities industry is higher than Avista's P/E.

NYSE:AVA Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 1st 2020

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Avista shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.

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. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Avista's earnings made like a rocket, taking off 61% last year. Having said that, the average EPS growth over the last three years wasn't so good, coming in at 12%.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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).

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

Is Debt Impacting Avista's P/E?

Net debt totals 66% of Avista's market cap. This is enough debt that you'd have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Bottom Line On Avista's P/E Ratio

Avista trades on a P/E ratio of 16.5, which is below the US market average of 18.9. While the EPS growth last year was strong, the significant debt levels reduce the number of options available to management. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

You might be able to find a better buy than Avista. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.

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.