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Does GWA Group Limited's (ASX:GWA) P/E Ratio Signal A Buying Opportunity?

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to GWA Group Limited's (ASX:GWA), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is GWA Group's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 19.49. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 5.1%.

View our latest analysis for GWA Group

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for GWA Group:

P/E of 19.49 = A$3.26 ÷ A$0.17 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

Does GWA Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below GWA Group has a P/E ratio that is fairly close for the average for the building industry, which is 19.7.

ASX:GWA Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 11th 2019

GWA Group's P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. So if GWA Group actually outperforms its peers going forward, that should be a positive for the share price. Checking factors such as director buying and selling. could help you form your own view on if that will happen.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. 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.

GWA Group's earnings per share fell by 12% in the last twelve months. But it has grown its earnings per share by 10% per year over the last five years. And EPS is down 4.2% a year, over the last 3 years. This could justify a low P/E.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on 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 GWA Group's P/E?

GWA Group has net debt worth 16% of its market capitalization. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.

The Bottom Line On GWA Group's P/E Ratio

GWA Group has a P/E of 19.5. That's around the same as the average in the AU market, which is 18.3. Given it has some debt, but didn't grow last year, the P/E indicates the market is expecting higher profits ahead for the business.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than GWA 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 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.