China Oil And Gas Group (HKG:603) shares have had a really impressive month, gaining 31%, after some slippage. But shareholders may not all be feeling jubilant, since the share price is still down 32% in the last year.
Assuming no other changes, a sharply higher share price makes a stock less 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 some would prefer to hold off buying when there is a lot of optimism towards a stock. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business 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 China Oil And Gas Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
China Oil And Gas Group's P/E of 6.68 indicates relatively low sentiment towards the stock. If you look at the image below, you can see China Oil And Gas Group has a lower P/E than the average (19.8) in the gas utilities industry classification.
Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that China Oil And Gas Group shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. 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. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.
China Oil And Gas Group saw earnings per share decrease by 8.2% last year. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 8.5% annually. So you wouldn't expect a very high P/E.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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).
Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).
Is Debt Impacting China Oil And Gas Group's P/E?
China Oil And Gas Group has net debt worth a very significant 239% of its market capitalization. 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 Bottom Line On China Oil And Gas Group's P/E Ratio
China Oil And Gas Group's P/E is 6.7 which is below average (10.3) in the HK market. Given meaningful debt, and a lack of recent growth, the market looks to be extrapolating this recent performance; reflecting low expectations for the future. What we know for sure is that investors are becoming less uncomfortable about China Oil And Gas Group's prospects, since they have pushed its P/E ratio from 5.1 to 6.7 over the last month. If you like to buy stocks that could be turnaround opportunities, then this one might be a candidate; but if you're more sensitive to price, then you may feel the opportunity has passed.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. We don't have analyst forecasts, but you might want to assess this data-rich visualization of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
Of course you might be able to find a better stock than China Oil And Gas Group. 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 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. Thank you for reading.