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Does Heritage Commerce Corp's (NASDAQ:HTBK) 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 Heritage Commerce Corp's (NASDAQ:HTBK), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is Heritage Commerce's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 10.54. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 9.5%.

View our latest analysis for Heritage Commerce

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Heritage Commerce:

P/E of 10.54 = $12.03 ÷ $1.14 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

Does Heritage Commerce Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (12.5) for companies in the banks industry is higher than Heritage Commerce's P/E.

NasdaqGS:HTBK Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 2nd 2019

This suggests that market participants think Heritage Commerce will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Heritage Commerce, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

Heritage Commerce's 128% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. The cherry on top is that the five year growth rate was an impressive 23% per year. So I'd be surprised if the P/E ratio was not above average.

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. 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.

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.

Heritage Commerce's Balance Sheet

Net debt totals just 0.6% of Heritage Commerce's market cap. It would probably trade on a higher P/E ratio if it had a lot of cash, but I doubt it is having a big impact.

The Bottom Line On Heritage Commerce's P/E Ratio

Heritage Commerce trades on a P/E ratio of 10.5, which is below the US market average of 17.7. The company hasn't stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified. Because analysts are predicting more growth in the future, one might have expected to see a higher P/E ratio. You can taker closer look at the fundamentals, here.

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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than Heritage Commerce. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.