Cullen/Frost Bankers (NYSE:CFR) shareholders are no doubt pleased to see that the share price has bounced 35% in the last month alone, although it is still down 19% over the last quarter. But shareholders may not all be feeling jubilant, since the share price is still down 30% in the last year.
Assuming no other changes, a sharply higher share price makes a stock less attractive to potential buyers. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. So some would prefer to hold off buying when there is a lot of optimism towards a stock. 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). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.
How Does Cullen/Frost Bankers's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
Cullen/Frost Bankers has a P/E ratio of 10.44. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (10.1) for companies in the banks industry is roughly the same as Cullen/Frost Bankers's P/E.
Cullen/Frost Bankers's P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. Further research into factors such as insider buying and selling, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.
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.
Cullen/Frost Bankers's earnings per share fell by 1.2% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 9.7%.
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).
How Does Cullen/Frost Bankers's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
Cullen/Frost Bankers has net cash of US$951m. This is fairly high at 21% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.
The Bottom Line On Cullen/Frost Bankers's P/E Ratio
Cullen/Frost Bankers's P/E is 10.4 which is below average (14.9) in the US market. The recent drop in earnings per share would make investors cautious, the relatively strong balance sheet will allow the company time to invest in growth. If it achieves that, then there's real potential that the low P/E could eventually indicate undervaluation. What we know for sure is that investors have become more excited about Cullen/Frost Bankers recently, since they have pushed its P/E ratio from 7.8 to 10.4 over the last month. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might mean it's time to put the stock on a watchlist, or research it. But the contrarian may see it as a missed opportunity.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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 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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