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What Does Autoliv, Inc.'s (NYSE:ALV) P/E Ratio Tell You?

Simply Wall St

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This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Autoliv, Inc.'s (NYSE:ALV), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Autoliv has a P/E ratio of 17.5. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 5.7%.

View our latest analysis for Autoliv

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Autoliv:

P/E of 17.5 = $65.98 ÷ $3.77 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company earnings. 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

When earnings fall, the 'E' decreases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Autoliv saw earnings per share decrease by 45% last year. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 6.2% annually. This might lead to muted expectations.

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

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. The image below shows that Autoliv has a higher P/E than the average (14.6) P/E for companies in the auto components industry.

NYSE:ALV Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 15th 2019

That means that the market expects Autoliv will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

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 Autoliv's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Net debt is 28% of Autoliv's market cap. You'd want to be aware of this fact, but it doesn't bother us.

The Bottom Line On Autoliv's P/E Ratio

Autoliv's P/E is 17.5 which is about average (17.7) in the US market. Given it has some debt, but didn't grow last year, the P/E indicates the market is expecting higher profits ahead for the business.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. 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 Autoliv. 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).

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.