Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Gale Pacific (ASX:GAP) share price has dived 31% in the last thirty days. And that drop will have no doubt have some shareholders concerned that the 63% share price decline, over the last year, has turned them into bagholders. For those wondering, a bagholder is someone who keeps holding a losing stock indefinitely, without taking the time to consider its prospects carefully, going forward.
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). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.
Does Gale Pacific Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 6.66 that sentiment around Gale Pacific isn't particularly high. The image below shows that Gale Pacific has a lower P/E than the average (9.5) P/E for companies in the consumer durables industry.
This suggests that market participants think Gale Pacific will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. 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.
Gale Pacific saw earnings per share decrease by 43% last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 5.7%. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 20% per year over the last three years. This might lead to low expectations.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. 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.
Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.
Gale Pacific's Balance Sheet
Gale Pacific has net debt worth 72% of its market capitalization. This is enough debt that you'd have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.
The Bottom Line On Gale Pacific's P/E Ratio
Gale Pacific's P/E is 6.7 which is below average (13.0) in the AU market. When you consider that the company has significant debt, and didn't grow EPS last year, it isn't surprising that the market has muted expectations. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about Gale Pacific over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 9.7 back then to 6.7 today. For those who prefer invest in growth, this stock apparently offers limited promise, but the deep value investors may find the pessimism around this stock enticing.
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. 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: Gale Pacific 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).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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