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Here’s What California Water Service Group’s (NYSE:CWT) P/E Is Telling Us

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 California Water Service Group’s (NYSE:CWT) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Based on the last twelve months, California Water Service Group’s P/E ratio is 38.14. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 2.6%.

Check out our latest analysis for California Water Service Group

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for California Water Service Group:

P/E of 38.14 = $52.05 ÷ $1.36 (Based on the year to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. That isn’t necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

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. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

California Water Service Group’s earnings per share fell by 10% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 5.9%.

How Does California Water Service Group’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that California Water Service Group has a higher P/E than the average (32.6) P/E for companies in the water utilities industry.

NYSE:CWT Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 7th 2019

California Water Service Group’s P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn’t guarantee future growth. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. That means it doesn’t take debt or cash into account. 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).

California Water Service Group’s Balance Sheet

Net debt totals 33% of California Water Service Group’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 Verdict On California Water Service Group’s P/E Ratio

California Water Service Group has a P/E of 38.1. That’s higher than the average in the US market, which is 17.5. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it’s fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. People often underestimate remarkable growth — so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. 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 California Water Service Group. 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).

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.