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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how Meta Financial Group, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:CASH) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Meta Financial Group has a price to earnings ratio of 14.38, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $14.38 for every $1 in prior year profit.
How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?
The formula for price to earnings is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for Meta Financial Group:
P/E of 14.38 = USD38.45 ÷ USD2.67 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 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 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.
Does Meta Financial Group 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. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (13.9) for companies in the mortgage industry is roughly the same as Meta Financial Group's P/E.
That indicates that the market expects Meta Financial Group will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. I would further inform my view by checking insider buying and selling., among other things.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
Meta Financial Group increased earnings per share by a whopping 43% last year. And earnings per share have improved by 26% annually, over the last five years. So we'd generally expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.
While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.
How Does Meta Financial Group's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
Meta Financial Group's net debt is 16% of its market cap. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.
The Verdict On Meta Financial Group's P/E Ratio
Meta Financial Group trades on a P/E ratio of 14.4, which is below the US market average of 18.4. The EPS growth last year was strong, and debt levels are quite reasonable. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue. Given analysts are expecting further growth, one might have expected a higher P/E ratio. That may be worth further research.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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 be able to find a better stock than Meta Financial Group. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.