To the annoyance of some shareholders, ASM Pacific Technology (HKG:522) shares are down a considerable 31% in the last month. Even longer term holders have taken a real hit with the stock declining 20% in the last year.
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.
How Does ASM Pacific Technology's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
ASM Pacific Technology's P/E of 45.49 indicates some degree of optimism towards the stock. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (12.6) for companies in the semiconductor industry is a lot lower than ASM Pacific Technology's P/E.
ASM Pacific Technology'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 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
Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.
ASM Pacific Technology's earnings per share fell by 72% in the last twelve months. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 18% per year over the last five years. This could justify a pessimistic P/E.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
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.
ASM Pacific Technology's Balance Sheet
ASM Pacific Technology has net debt worth just 2.4% of its market capitalization. So it doesn't have as many options as it would with net cash, but its debt would not have much of an impact on its P/E ratio.
The Verdict On ASM Pacific Technology's P/E Ratio
ASM Pacific Technology's P/E is 45.5 which is way above average (8.6) in its market. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it's fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market. Given ASM Pacific Technology's P/E ratio has declined from 65.7 to 45.5 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is significantly less confident about the business today, than it was back then. For those who don't like to trade against momentum, that could be a warning sign, but a contrarian investor might want to take a closer look.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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: ASM Pacific Technology 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).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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