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How Does PetMed Express's (NASDAQ:PETS) P/E Compare To Its Industry, After Its Big Share Price Gain?

Simply Wall St

It's great to see PetMed Express (NASDAQ:PETS) shareholders have their patience rewarded with a 52% share price pop in the last month. But shareholders may not all be feeling jubilant, since the share price is still down 15% in the last year.

All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. So some would prefer to hold off buying when there is a lot of optimism towards a stock. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business 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.

Check out our latest analysis for PetMed Express

How Does PetMed Express's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

PetMed Express's P/E of 17.40 indicates relatively low sentiment towards the stock. The image below shows that PetMed Express has a lower P/E than the average (34.8) P/E for companies in the online retail industry.

NasdaqGS:PETS Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 22nd 2019

This suggests that market participants think PetMed Express will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. 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.

PetMed Express's earnings per share fell by 25% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 10%.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. 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 investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

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 PetMed Express's P/E?

With net cash of US$83m, PetMed Express has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 16% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Verdict On PetMed Express's P/E Ratio

PetMed Express's P/E is 17.4 which is about average (17.6) in the US market. Although the recent drop in earnings per share would keep the market cautious, the net cash position means it's not surprising that expectations put the company roughly in line with the market average P/E. What is very clear is that the market has become significantly more optimistic about PetMed Express over the last month, with the P/E ratio rising from 11.5 back then to 17.4 today. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might mean it's time to put the stock on a watchlist, or research it. But the contrarian may see it as a missed opportunity.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

But note: PetMed Express 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).

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 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. Thank you for reading.