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Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Transcat, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRNS) Still Undervalued?

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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 Transcat, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:TRNS) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Transcat has a P/E ratio of 26.19, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay \$26.19 for every \$1 in trailing yearly profits.

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Transcat:

P/E of 26.19 = \$26 Ã· \$0.99 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings 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 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

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

It's great to see that Transcat grew EPS by 20% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 12% per year over the last five years. This could arguably justify a relatively high P/E ratio.

How Does Transcat's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that Transcat has a higher P/E than the average (16.6) P/E for companies in the trade distributors industry.

That means that the market expects Transcat 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. 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 spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

Is Debt Impacting Transcat's P/E?

Net debt totals 11% of Transcat's market cap. That's enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you're comparing it to companies without debt.

The Verdict On Transcat's P/E Ratio

Transcat has a P/E of 26.2. That's higher than the average in the US market, which is 18.2. While the company does use modest debt, its recent earnings growth is very good. Therefore, it's not particularly surprising that it has a above average 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.

But note: Transcat may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.