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Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Vesuvius plc (LON:VSVS) Still Undervalued?

Bruce Howe

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Vesuvius plc’s (LON:VSVS) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Based on the last twelve months, Vesuvius’s P/E ratio is 24.6. That means that at current prices, buyers pay £24.6 for every £1 in trailing yearly profits.

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How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Vesuvius:

P/E of 24.6 = £5.55 ÷ £0.23 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

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. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

When earnings fall, the ‘E’ decreases, over time. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

Vesuvius shrunk earnings per share by 3.1% last year. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 8.4% annually. So you wouldn’t expect a very high P/E.

How Does Vesuvius’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. As you can see below, Vesuvius has a higher P/E than the average company (18.3) in the machinery industry.

LSE:VSVS PE PEG Gauge January 13th 19

That means that the market expects Vesuvius will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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

Don’t forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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 Vesuvius’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Net debt totals 21% of Vesuvius’s market cap. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.

The Bottom Line On Vesuvius’s P/E Ratio

Vesuvius’s P/E is 24.6 which is above average (15.6) in the GB market. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it’s fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. People often underestimate remarkable growth — so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold they key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than Vesuvius. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

To help readers see past 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. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.