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To the annoyance of some shareholders, AZZ (NYSE:AZZ) shares are down a considerable 42% in the last month. That drop has capped off a tough year for shareholders, with the share price down 37% in that time.
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). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.
Does AZZ Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
AZZ's P/E of 9.81 indicates relatively low sentiment towards the stock. If you look at the image below, you can see AZZ has a lower P/E than the average (13.6) in the electrical industry classification.
This suggests that market participants think AZZ will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with AZZ, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. 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. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
AZZ increased earnings per share by 2.2% last year. And earnings per share have improved by 2.4% annually, over the last five years.
Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).
Is Debt Impacting AZZ's P/E?
AZZ's net debt equates to 36% of its market capitalization. While it's worth keeping this in mind, it isn't a worry.
The Bottom Line On AZZ's P/E Ratio
AZZ's P/E is 9.8 which is below average (11.8) in the US market. The company does have a little debt, and EPS is moving in the right direction. The P/E ratio implies the market is cautious about longer term prospects. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about AZZ over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 16.9 back then to 9.8 today. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for deep value investors this stock might justify some research.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. 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.
But note: AZZ may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).
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.