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Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Echo Global Logistics, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECHO) Still Undervalued?

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll look at Echo Global Logistics, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ECHO) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Echo Global Logistics has a P/E ratio of 37.41, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $37.41 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Echo Global Logistics

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 Echo Global Logistics:

P/E of 37.41 = USD20.95 ÷ USD0.56 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

Is A High P/E 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 Echo Global Logistics Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

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 (20.7) for companies in the logistics industry is lower than Echo Global Logistics's P/E.

NasdaqGS:ECHO Price Estimation Relative to Market, February 19th 2020

That means that the market expects Echo Global Logistics will outperform other companies in its industry. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. 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.

Echo Global Logistics's earnings per share fell by 46% in the last twelve months. But EPS is up 116% over the last 3 years. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 5.1% annually. This growth rate might warrant a below average P/E ratio.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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).

Is Debt Impacting Echo Global Logistics's P/E?

Echo Global Logistics's net debt is 15% of its 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 Bottom Line On Echo Global Logistics's P/E Ratio

Echo Global Logistics trades on a P/E ratio of 37.4, which is above its market average of 18.3. 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. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

You might be able to find a better buy than Echo Global Logistics. 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).

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.