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Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is secunet Security Networks Aktiengesellschaft (ETR:YSN) Still Undervalued?

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to secunet Security Networks Aktiengesellschaft's (ETR:YSN), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Based on the last twelve months, secunet Security Networks's P/E ratio is 42.23. That means that at current prices, buyers pay â‚¬42.23 for every â‚¬1 in trailing yearly profits.

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share Ã· Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for secunet Security Networks:

P/E of 42.23 = â‚¬117 Ã· â‚¬2.77 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each â‚¬1 the company has earned over the last year. 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.'

How Does secunet Security Networks's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (25.7) for companies in the it industry is lower than secunet Security Networks's P/E.

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that secunet Security Networks shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. 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

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

It's great to see that secunet Security Networks grew EPS by 13% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 50% per year over the last five years. This could arguably justify a relatively high P/E ratio.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Is Debt Impacting secunet Security Networks's P/E?

Since secunet Security Networks holds net cash of â‚¬56m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.

The Verdict On secunet Security Networks's P/E Ratio

secunet Security Networks has a P/E of 42.2. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 19.7. Its net cash position supports a higher P/E ratio, as does its solid recent earnings growth. So it is not surprising the market is probably extrapolating recent growth well into the future, reflected in the relatively high P/E ratio.

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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than secunet Security Networks. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.