Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Asbury Automotive Group (NYSE:ABG) share price has dived 36% in the last thirty days. The recent drop has obliterated the annual return, with the share price now down 12% over that longer period.
Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more attractive to potential buyers. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
Does Asbury Automotive Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
Asbury Automotive Group's P/E of 6.30 indicates relatively low sentiment towards the stock. If you look at the image below, you can see Asbury Automotive Group has a lower P/E than the average (9.0) in the specialty retail industry classification.
This suggests that market participants think Asbury Automotive Group will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
It's great to see that Asbury Automotive Group grew EPS by 16% in the last year. And earnings per share have improved by 21% annually, over the last five years. This could arguably justify a relatively high P/E ratio.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
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.
Is Debt Impacting Asbury Automotive Group's P/E?
Net debt totals a substantial 152% of Asbury Automotive Group's market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you must keep in mind that these debt levels would usually warrant a relatively low P/E.
The Verdict On Asbury Automotive Group's P/E Ratio
Asbury Automotive Group trades on a P/E ratio of 6.3, which is below the US market average of 13.4. The company may have significant debt, but EPS growth was good last year. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low. Given Asbury Automotive Group's P/E ratio has declined from 9.8 to 6.3 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is more worried about the business today, than it was back then. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for deep value investors this stock might justify some research.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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