Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Estia Health (ASX:EHE) share price has dived 58% in the last thirty days. Given the 64% drop over the last year, some shareholders might be worried that they have become bagholders. What is a bagholder? It is a shareholder who has suffered a bad loss, but continues to hold indefinitely, without questioning their reasons for holding, even as the losses grow greater.
Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more 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, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. 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 implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.
Does Estia Health Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 7.48 that sentiment around Estia Health isn't particularly high. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (14.2) for companies in the healthcare industry is higher than Estia Health's P/E.
Estia Health's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
When earnings fall, the 'E' decreases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.
Estia Health's earnings per share fell by 18% in the last twelve months. And over the longer term (3 years) earnings per share have decreased 6.5% annually. This might lead to low expectations.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.
Estia Health's Balance Sheet
Estia Health's net debt equates to 34% of its market capitalization. While it's worth keeping this in mind, it isn't a worry.
The Bottom Line On Estia Health's P/E Ratio
Estia Health's P/E is 7.5 which is below average (13.3) in the AU market. Since it only carries a modest debt load, it's likely the low expectations implied by the P/E ratio arise from the lack of recent earnings growth. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about Estia Health over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 17.9 back then to 7.5 today. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for deep value investors this stock might justify some research.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Estia Health. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.
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.
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