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Does Jack in the Box Inc.'s (NASDAQ:JACK) 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 look at Jack in the Box Inc.'s (NASDAQ:JACK) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Based on the last twelve months, Jack in the Box's P/E ratio is 23.43. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $23.43 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Jack in the Box

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 Jack in the Box:

P/E of 23.43 = USD83.23 ÷ USD3.55 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each USD1 of company earnings. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

How Does Jack in the Box's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (25.6) for companies in the hospitality industry is higher than Jack in the Box's P/E.

NasdaqGS:JACK Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 23rd 2020

This suggests that market participants think Jack in the Box will underperform other companies in its industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. 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.

Jack in the Box saw earnings per share decrease by 3.1% last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 8.8%.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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.

Is Debt Impacting Jack in the Box's P/E?

Jack in the Box's net debt is 58% of its market cap. This is enough debt that you'd have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Verdict On Jack in the Box's P/E Ratio

Jack in the Box has a P/E of 23.4. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 18.8. 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. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. 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 Jack in the Box. 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).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.