Cohen & Company Inc (AMEX:COHN) is trading with a trailing P/E of 5.5x, which is lower than the industry average of 23.8x. While this makes COHN appear like a great stock to buy, you might change your mind after I explain the assumptions behind the P/E ratio. Today, I will deconstruct the P/E ratio and highlight what you need to be careful of when using the P/E ratio. Check out our latest analysis for Cohen
Breaking down the P/E ratio
The P/E ratio is a popular ratio used in relative valuation since earnings power is a key driver of investment value. It compares a stock’s price per share to the stock’s earnings per share. A more intuitive way of understanding the P/E ratio is to think of it as how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.
Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share
P/E Calculation for COHN
Price per share = 10.8
Earnings per share = 1.957
∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = 10.8 ÷ 1.957 = 5.5x
The P/E ratio itself doesn’t tell you a lot; however, it becomes very insightful when you compare it with other similar companies. Ultimately, our goal is to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar attributes to COHN, such as company lifetime and products sold. One way of gathering a peer group is to use firms in the same industry, which is what I’ll do. Since similar companies should technically have similar P/E ratios, we can very quickly come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios differ.
COHN’s P/E of 5.5x is lower than its industry peers (23.8x), which implies that each dollar of COHN’s earnings is being undervalued by investors. Therefore, according to this analysis, COHN is an under-priced stock.
Assumptions to be aware of
Before you jump to the conclusion that COHN represents the perfect buying opportunity, it is important to realise that our conclusion rests on two important assertions. The first is that our peer group actually contains companies that are similar to COHN. If this isn’t the case, the difference in P/E could be due to some other factors. For example, if you accidentally compared higher growth firms with COHN, then COHN’s P/E would naturally be lower since investors would reward its peers’ higher growth with a higher price. Alternatively, if you inadvertently compared less risky firms with COHN, COHN’s P/E would again be lower since investors would reward its peers’ lower risk with a higher price as well. The second assumption that must hold true is that the stocks we are comparing COHN to are fairly valued by the market. If this assumption is violated, COHN's P/E may be lower than its peers because its peers are actually overvalued by investors.
What this means for you:
Are you a shareholder? You may have already conducted fundamental analysis on the stock as a shareholder, so its current undervaluation could signal a good buying opportunity to increase your exposure to COHN. Now that you understand the ins and outs of the PE metric, you should know to bear in mind its limitations before you make an investment decision.
Are you a potential investor? If you are considering investing in COHN, looking at the PE ratio on its own is not enough to make a well-informed decision. You will benefit from looking at additional analysis and considering its intrinsic valuation along with other relative valuation metrics like PEG and EV/Sales.
PE is one aspect of your portfolio construction to consider when holding or entering into a stock. But it is certainly not the only factor. Take a look at our most recent infographic report on Cohen for a more in-depth analysis of the stock to help you make a well-informed investment decision. Since we know a limitation of PE is it doesn't properly account for growth, you can use our free platform to see my list of stocks with a high growth potential and see if their PE is still reasonable.
To help readers see pass the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price sensitive company announcements.
The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned.