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Does China Distance Education Holdings Limited's (NYSE:DL) P/E Ratio Signal A Buying Opportunity?

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at China Distance Education Holdings Limited's (NYSE:DL) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. China Distance Education Holdings has a price to earnings ratio of 13.11, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $13.11 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for China Distance Education Holdings

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for China Distance Education Holdings:

P/E of 13.11 = $5.05 ÷ $0.39 (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. 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.'

Does China Distance Education Holdings Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see China Distance Education Holdings has a lower P/E than the average (25.7) in the consumer services industry classification.

NYSE:DL Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 30th 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that China Distance Education Holdings shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Since the market seems unimpressed with China Distance Education Holdings, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. 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

When earnings fall, the 'E' decreases, over time. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

China Distance Education Holdings's earnings made like a rocket, taking off 128% last year. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 4.0% a year, over 5 years.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

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

How Does China Distance Education Holdings's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

China Distance Education Holdings has net cash of US$24m. This is fairly high at 14% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.

The Bottom Line On China Distance Education Holdings's P/E Ratio

China Distance Education Holdings's P/E is 13.1 which is below average (17.9) in the US market. The net cash position gives plenty of options to the business, and the recent improvement in EPS is good to see. The below average P/E ratio suggests that market participants don't believe the strong growth will continue. Because analysts are predicting more growth in the future, one might have expected to see a higher P/E ratio. You can taker closer look at the fundamentals, here.

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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

But note: China Distance Education Holdings 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).

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.