Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Spire Healthcare Group (LON:SPI) share price has dived 39% in the last thirty days. Indeed the recent decline has arguably caused some bitterness for shareholders who have held through the 39% drop over twelve months.
All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more 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, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. 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.
Does Spire Healthcare Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 43.04 that there is some investor optimism about Spire Healthcare Group. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (18.1) for companies in the healthcare industry is lower than Spire Healthcare Group's P/E.
That means that the market expects Spire Healthcare Group will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.
Spire Healthcare Group's earnings per share fell by 36% in the last twelve months. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 1.0% per year over the last five years. This could justify a pessimistic P/E.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
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. 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 Spire Healthcare Group's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
Net debt totals a substantial 105% of Spire Healthcare Group's market cap. This level of debt justifies a relatively low P/E, so remain cognizant of the debt, if you're comparing it to other stocks.
The Bottom Line On Spire Healthcare Group's P/E Ratio
Spire Healthcare Group has a P/E of 43.0. That's significantly higher than the average in its market, which is 12.2. With significant debt and no EPS growth last year, shareholders are betting on an improvement in earnings from the company. Given Spire Healthcare Group's P/E ratio has declined from 70.1 to 43.0 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is significantly less confident about the business today, than it was back then. For those who don't like to trade against momentum, that could be a warning sign, but a contrarian investor might want to take a closer look.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.
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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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