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Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is First Northwest Bancorp (NASDAQ:FNWB) 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 First Northwest Bancorp's (NASDAQ:FNWB) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, First Northwest Bancorp has a P/E ratio of 19.35. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $19.35 for every $1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for First Northwest Bancorp

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for First Northwest Bancorp:

P/E of 19.35 = $16.01 ÷ $0.83 (Based on the year to June 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. 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 First Northwest Bancorp's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that First Northwest Bancorp has a higher P/E than the average (12.2) P/E for companies in the banks industry.

NasdaqGM:FNWB Price Estimation Relative to Market, September 9th 2019

First Northwest Bancorp's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

First Northwest Bancorp's 85% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. Even better, EPS is up 36% per year over three years. So you might say it really deserves to have an above-average P/E ratio.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. 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.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

So What Does First Northwest Bancorp's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

First Northwest Bancorp has net debt worth 63% of its market capitalization. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.

The Verdict On First Northwest Bancorp's P/E Ratio

First Northwest Bancorp's P/E is 19.4 which is above average (17.5) in its market. While its debt levels are rather high, at least its EPS is growing quickly. So it seems likely the market is overlooking the debt because of the fast earnings growth.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. We don't have analyst forecasts, but you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than First Northwest Bancorp. 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.