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What Does Steamships Trading Company Limited's (ASX:SST) P/E Ratio Tell You?

Simply Wall St

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 Steamships Trading Company Limited's (ASX:SST) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, Steamships Trading's P/E ratio is 75.70. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 1.3%.

See our latest analysis for Steamships Trading

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price (in reporting currency) ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Steamships Trading:

P/E of 75.70 = A$33.43 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, PGK ) ÷ A$0.44 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each A$1 the company has earned over the last year. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

Does Steamships Trading Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. As you can see below, Steamships Trading has a much higher P/E than the average company (12.8) in the industrials industry.

ASX:SST Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 19th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Steamships Trading shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

When earnings fall, the 'E' decreases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

Steamships Trading's 55% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 36% a year, over 5 years.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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.

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.

Steamships Trading's Balance Sheet

Net debt totals 20% of Steamships Trading's 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 Bottom Line On Steamships Trading's P/E Ratio

Steamships Trading's P/E is 75.7 which suggests the market is more focussed on the future opportunity rather than the current level of earnings. While the company does use modest debt, its recent earnings growth is superb. So on this analysis a high P/E ratio seems reasonable.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. We don't have analyst forecasts, but you might want to assess this data-rich visualization of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

But note: Steamships Trading 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.