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Is Copa Holdings, S.A.'s (NYSE:CPA) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

Simply Wall St
·4 min read

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at Copa Holdings, S.A.'s (NYSE:CPA) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Copa Holdings has a price to earnings ratio of 47.64, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 2.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for Copa Holdings

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Copa Holdings:

P/E of 47.64 = USD99.00 ÷ USD2.08 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price'.

Does Copa Holdings Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. As you can see below, Copa Holdings has a much higher P/E than the average company (8.9) in the airlines industry.

NYSE:CPA Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 28th 2020
NYSE:CPA Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 28th 2020

That means that the market expects Copa Holdings will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. 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. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Copa Holdings saw earnings per share decrease by 74% last year. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 27% annually. This growth rate might warrant a below average P/E ratio.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

So What Does Copa Holdings's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Copa Holdings's net debt is 8.2% of its market cap. It would probably trade on a higher P/E ratio if it had a lot of cash, but I doubt it is having a big impact.

The Verdict On Copa Holdings's P/E Ratio

Copa Holdings has a P/E of 47.6. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 18.3. With some debt but no EPS growth last year, the market has high expectations of future profits.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

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 modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.

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.