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What Does Huaneng Power International, Inc.’s (HKG:902) P/E Ratio Tell You?

James Harlett

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 Huaneng Power International, Inc.’s (HKG:902) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Huaneng Power International has a price to earnings ratio of 79.6, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying HK$79.6 for every HK$1 in prior year profit.

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How Do I Calculate Huaneng Power International’s Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price (in reporting currency) ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Huaneng Power International:

P/E of 79.6 = CN¥4.33 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, CNY ) ÷ CN¥0.054 (Based on the year to September 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each HK$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

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the ‘E’ in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

Huaneng Power International saw earnings per share decrease by 61% last year. And EPS is down 28% a year, over the last 5 years. This growth rate might warrant a below average P/E ratio.

How Does Huaneng Power International’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (9.4) for companies in the renewable energy industry is a lot lower than Huaneng Power International’s P/E.

SEHK:902 PE PEG Gauge January 23rd 19

Huaneng Power International’s P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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 taking on debt (or spending its remaining cash).

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Huaneng Power International’s Balance Sheet

Huaneng Power International has net debt worth a very significant 231% of its market capitalization. This level of debt justifies a relatively low P/E, so remain cognizant of the debt, if you’re comparing it to other stocks.

The Verdict On Huaneng Power International’s P/E Ratio

Huaneng Power International trades on a P/E ratio of 79.6, which is multiples above the HK market average of 10.3. With significant debt and no EPS growth last year, shareholders are betting on an improvement in earnings from the company.

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. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

But note: Huaneng Power International 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).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.