The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how Haw Par Corporation Limited's (SGX:H02) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Haw Par has a price to earnings ratio of 16.24, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 6.2%.
How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?
The formula for price to earnings is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for Haw Par:
P/E of 16.24 = SGD13.98 ÷ SGD0.86 (Based on the year to June 2019.)
Is A High P/E 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 Does Haw Par'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 Haw Par has a P/E ratio that is roughly in line with the pharmaceuticals industry average (15.2).
Haw Par's P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. So if Haw Par 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
Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.
Most would be impressed by Haw Par earnings growth of 22% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 9.4% per year over the last five years. This could arguably justify a relatively high P/E ratio.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
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. 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.
While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.
So What Does Haw Par's Balance Sheet Tell Us?
Haw Par has net cash of S$384m. This is fairly high at 12% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.
The Bottom Line On Haw Par's P/E Ratio
Haw Par trades on a P/E ratio of 16.2, which is above its market average of 12.6. With cash in the bank the company has plenty of growth options -- and it is already on the right track. So it is not surprising the market is probably extrapolating recent growth well into the future, reflected in the relatively high P/E ratio.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. Although we don't have analyst forecasts, shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
But note: Haw Par 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 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. Thank you for reading.