To the annoyance of some shareholders, Cameco (TSE:CCO) shares are down a considerable 35% in the last month. Indeed the recent decline has arguably caused some bitterness for shareholders who have held through the 51% drop over twelve months.
All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more attractive to potential investors. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.
How Does Cameco's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 42.63 that there is some investor optimism about Cameco. The image below shows that Cameco has a significantly higher P/E than the average (5.4) P/E for companies in the oil and gas industry.
Cameco's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.
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. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. 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.
Cameco saw earnings per share decrease by 56% last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 5.0%.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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.
How Does Cameco's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
Since Cameco holds net cash of CA$66m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.
The Bottom Line On Cameco's P/E Ratio
Cameco trades on a P/E ratio of 42.6, which is multiples above its market average of 9.9. Falling earnings per share is probably keeping traditional value investors away, but the healthy balance sheet means the company retains the potential for future growth. If this growth fails to materialise, the current high P/E could prove to be temporary, as the share price falls. Given Cameco's P/E ratio has declined from 65.7 to 42.6 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. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.
Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Cameco. 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.
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