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Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Flowers Foods, Inc. (NYSE:FLO) Still Undervalued?

Simply Wall St

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how Flowers Foods, Inc.'s (NYSE:FLO) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Flowers Foods has a P/E ratio of 24.90. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $24.90 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Flowers Foods

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Flowers Foods:

P/E of 24.90 = $21.57 ÷ $0.87 (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

Does Flowers Foods 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 Flowers Foods has a P/E ratio that is fairly close for the average for the food industry, which is 24.9.

NYSE:FLO Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 11th 2019
NYSE:FLO Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 11th 2019

That indicates that the market expects Flowers Foods will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. Checking factors such as director buying and selling. could help you form your own view on if that will happen.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Flowers Foods saw earnings per share decrease by 15% last year.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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.

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.

So What Does Flowers Foods's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Net debt totals 19% of Flowers Foods's market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Verdict On Flowers Foods's P/E Ratio

Flowers Foods has a P/E of 24.9. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 18.4. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it's safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

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.