To the annoyance of some shareholders, Heartland Financial USA (NASDAQ:HTLF) shares are down a considerable 42% in the last month. That drop has capped off a tough year for shareholders, with the share price down 34% in that time.
All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more attractive to potential investors. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock 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.
How Does Heartland Financial USA's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 6.77 that sentiment around Heartland Financial USA isn't particularly high. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (8.6) for companies in the banks industry is higher than Heartland Financial USA's P/E.
Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Heartland Financial USA shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Since the market seems unimpressed with Heartland Financial USA, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.
Most would be impressed by Heartland Financial USA earnings growth of 17% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 13%. With that performance, you might expect an above average P/E ratio.
Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).
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).
So What Does Heartland Financial USA's Balance Sheet Tell Us?
Heartland Financial USA has net debt worth 12% of its market capitalization. That's enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you're comparing it to companies without debt.
The Bottom Line On Heartland Financial USA's P/E Ratio
Heartland Financial USA trades on a P/E ratio of 6.8, which is below the US market average of 12.6. The company hasn't stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about Heartland Financial USA over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 11.6 back then to 6.8 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 have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. 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 Heartland Financial USA. 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 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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