It's really great to see that even after a strong run, Laserbond (ASX:LBL) shares have been powering on, with a gain of 31% in the last thirty days. Zooming out, the stock's 308% gain in the last year is certainly splendiferous.
All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). The implication here is that deep value investors might steer clear when expectations of a company are too high. 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.
Does Laserbond Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
Laserbond's P/E of 27.24 indicates some degree of optimism towards the stock. The image below shows that Laserbond has a higher P/E than the average (15.0) P/E for companies in the machinery industry.
Laserbond's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors 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. 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.
Laserbond's earnings made like a rocket, taking off 188% last year. The sweetener is that the annual five year growth rate of 32% is also impressive. So I'd be surprised if the P/E ratio was not above average.
Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
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. 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.
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).
Is Debt Impacting Laserbond's P/E?
Since Laserbond holds net cash of AU$2.2m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.
The Bottom Line On Laserbond's P/E Ratio
Laserbond's P/E is 27.2 which is above average (17.9) in its market. The excess cash it carries is the gravy on top its fast EPS growth. To us, this is the sort of company that we would expect to carry an above average price tag (relative to earnings). What we know for sure is that investors have become much more excited about Laserbond recently, since they have pushed its P/E ratio from 20.7 to 27.2 over the last month. If you like to buy stocks that have recently impressed the market, then this one might be a candidate; but if you prefer to invest when there is 'blood in the streets', then you may feel the opportunity has passed.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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. Although we don't have analyst forecasts you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
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.
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