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Is Columbia Banking System Inc (COLB) A Sell At Its Current PE Ratio?

Liliana Gabriel

Columbia Banking System Inc (NASDAQ:COLB) is currently trading at a trailing P/E of 19.9x, which is higher than the industry average of 17.8x. While COLB might seem like a stock to avoid or sell if you own it, it is important to understand the assumptions behind the P/E ratio before you make any investment decisions. Today, I will deconstruct the P/E ratio and highlight what you need to be careful of when using the P/E ratio. View our latest analysis for Columbia Banking System

Demystifying the P/E ratio

NasdaqGS:COLB PE PEG Gauge Nov 28th 17

The P/E ratio is a popular ratio used in relative valuation since earnings power is a key driver of investment value. By comparing a stock’s price per share to its earnings per share, we are able to see how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.

P/E Calculation for COLB

Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share

COLB Price-Earnings Ratio = $43.69 ÷ $2.195 = 19.9x

The P/E ratio itself doesn’t tell you a lot; however, it becomes very insightful when you compare it with other similar companies. We want to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar characteristics as COLB, such as size and country of operation. One way of gathering a peer group is to use firms in the same industry, which is what I’ll do. Since COLB’s P/E of 19.9x is higher than its industry peers (17.8x), it means that investors are paying more than they should for each dollar of COLB’s earnings. Therefore, according to this analysis, COLB is an over-priced stock.

A few caveats

Before you jump to the conclusion that COLB should be banished from your portfolio, it is important to realise that our conclusion rests on two assertions. Firstly, our peer group contains companies that are similar to COLB. If this isn’t the case, the difference in P/E could be due to other factors. For example, if you are comparing lower risk firms with COLB, then its P/E would naturally be lower than its peers, as investors would value those with lower risk at a higher price. The second assumption that must hold true is that the stocks we are comparing COLB to are fairly valued by the market. If this does not hold true, COLB’s lower P/E ratio may be because firms in our peer group are overvalued by the market.

What this means for you:

Are you a shareholder? Since you may have already conducted your due diligence on COLB, the overvaluation of the stock may mean it is a good time to reduce your current holdings. But at the end of the day, keep in mind that relative valuation relies heavily on critical assumptions I’ve outlined above.

Are you a potential investor? If you are considering investing in COLB, looking at the PE ratio on its own is not enough to make a well-informed decision. You will benefit from looking at additional analysis and considering its intrinsic valuation along with other relative valuation metrics like PEG and EV/Sales.

PE is one aspect of your portfolio construction to consider when holding or entering into a stock. But it is certainly not the only factor. Take a look at our most recent infographic report on Columbia Banking System for a more in-depth analysis of the stock to help you make a well-informed investment decision. Since we know a limitation of PE is it doesn’t properly account for growth, you can use our free platform to see my list of stocks with a high growth potential and see if their PE is still reasonable.


To help readers see pass the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned.