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What Does City Service SE's (WSE:CTS) P/E Ratio Tell You?

Simply Wall St

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use City Service SE's (WSE:CTS) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, City Service has a P/E ratio of 24.82. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 4.0%.

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How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share (in the reporting currency) ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for City Service:

P/E of 24.82 = €2.98 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, EUR ) ÷ €0.12 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

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. 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.'

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

City Service shrunk earnings per share by 38% over the last year. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 11% per year over the last five years. This growth rate might warrant a below average P/E ratio.

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

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that City Service has a higher P/E than the average (9.2) P/E for companies in the commercial services industry.

WSE:CTS Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 15th 2019

City Service's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

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. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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 City Service's P/E?

City Service has net debt equal to 31% of its market cap. While it's worth keeping this in mind, it isn't a worry.

The Bottom Line On City Service's P/E Ratio

City Service trades on a P/E ratio of 24.8, which is above the PL market average of 10.8. 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.

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, you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

But note: City Service 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.