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With a price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 46.6x Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADSK) may be sending very bearish signals at the moment, given that almost half of all companies in the United States have P/E ratios under 17x and even P/E's lower than 10x are not unusual. Nonetheless, we'd need to dig a little deeper to determine if there is a rational basis for the highly elevated P/E.
Autodesk certainly has been doing a good job lately as it's been growing earnings more than most other companies. It seems that many are expecting the strong earnings performance to persist, which has raised the P/E. You'd really hope so, otherwise you're paying a pretty hefty price for no particular reason.
If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report on Autodesk.
What Are Growth Metrics Telling Us About The High P/E?
In order to justify its P/E ratio, Autodesk would need to produce outstanding growth well in excess of the market.
If we review the last year of earnings growth, the company posted a terrific increase of 262%. Still, EPS has barely risen at all from three years ago in total, which is not ideal. So it appears to us that the company has had a mixed result in terms of growing earnings over that time.
Turning to the outlook, the next three years should generate growth of 4.6% per year as estimated by the analysts watching the company. With the market predicted to deliver 12% growth per annum, the company is positioned for a weaker earnings result.
In light of this, it's alarming that Autodesk's P/E sits above the majority of other companies. It seems most investors are hoping for a turnaround in the company's business prospects, but the analyst cohort is not so confident this will happen. Only the boldest would assume these prices are sustainable as this level of earnings growth is likely to weigh heavily on the share price eventually.
The Final Word
While the price-to-earnings ratio shouldn't be the defining factor in whether you buy a stock or not, it's quite a capable barometer of earnings expectations.
We've established that Autodesk currently trades on a much higher than expected P/E since its forecast growth is lower than the wider market. Right now we are increasingly uncomfortable with the high P/E as the predicted future earnings aren't likely to support such positive sentiment for long. This places shareholders' investments at significant risk and potential investors in danger of paying an excessive premium.
Before you take the next step, you should know about the 2 warning signs for Autodesk that we have uncovered.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with a strong growth track record, trading on a P/E below 20x.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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