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Does Hillenbrand, Inc.'s (NYSE:HI) P/E Ratio Signal A Buying Opportunity?

Simply Wall St

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll show how you can use Hillenbrand, Inc.'s (NYSE:HI) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, Hillenbrand's P/E ratio is 16.94. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $16.94 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for Hillenbrand

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Hillenbrand:

P/E of 16.94 = $39.57 ÷ $2.34 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company earnings. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

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. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

In the last year, Hillenbrand grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 120% gain was both fast and well deserved. Having said that, the average EPS growth over the last three years wasn't so good, coming in at 15%.

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

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. The image below shows that Hillenbrand has a lower P/E than the average (21.7) P/E for companies in the machinery industry.

NYSE:HI Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 11th 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Hillenbrand shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in 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.

So What Does Hillenbrand's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Hillenbrand's net debt is 12% of its market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Verdict On Hillenbrand's P/E Ratio

Hillenbrand has a P/E of 16.9. That's around the same as the average in the US market, which is 18.1. When you consider the impressive EPS growth last year (along with some debt), it seems the market has questions about whether rapid EPS growth will be sustained. 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 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 find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E 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 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.