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Does C&F Financial Corporation's (NASDAQ:CFFI) P/E Ratio Signal A Buying Opportunity?

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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 C&F Financial Corporation's (NASDAQ:CFFI), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. C&F Financial has a P/E ratio of 9.89, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 10%.

Check out our latest analysis for C&F Financial

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 C&F Financial:

P/E of 9.89 = $50.61 ÷ $5.12 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

How Does C&F Financial's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see C&F Financial has a lower P/E than the average (12.7) in the banks industry classification.

NasdaqGS:CFFI Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 18th 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that C&F Financial shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. 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

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. 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.

C&F Financial's earnings made like a rocket, taking off 131% last year. Having said that, the average EPS growth over the last three years wasn't so good, coming in at 12%.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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.

C&F Financial's Balance Sheet

C&F Financial has net debt worth 13% of its market capitalization. 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 Bottom Line On C&F Financial's P/E Ratio

C&F Financial's P/E is 9.9 which is below average (17.9) in the US market. The company does have a little debt, and EPS growth was good last year. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

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.' Although we don't have analyst forecasts, shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than C&F Financial. 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.