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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Olympic Steel, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ZEUS) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. What is Olympic Steel's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 5.18. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 19%.
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 Olympic Steel:
P/E of 5.18 = $12.76 ÷ $2.46 (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 Does Olympic Steel's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. If you look at the image below, you can see Olympic Steel has a lower P/E than the average (10.8) in the metals and mining industry classification.
This suggests that market participants think Olympic Steel 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. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.
It's nice to see that Olympic Steel grew EPS by a stonking 49% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 39% per year over the last five years. With that performance, I would expect it to have an above average P/E ratio.
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. 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 Olympic Steel's P/E?
Olympic Steel has net debt worth a very significant 220% of its market capitalization. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you must keep in mind that these debt levels would usually warrant a relatively low P/E.
The Bottom Line On Olympic Steel's P/E Ratio
Olympic Steel trades on a P/E ratio of 5.2, which is below the US market average of 18.1. The company has a meaningful amount of debt on the balance sheet, but that should not eclipse the solid earnings growth. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
You might be able to find a better buy than Olympic Steel. 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).
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 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. Thank you for reading.