This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to United-Guardian, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:UG), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. United-Guardian has a P/E ratio of 21.3, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $21.3 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 United-Guardian:
P/E of 21.3 = $19.47 ÷ $0.91 (Based on the year 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 $1 the company has earned over the last year. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.
Does United-Guardian 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 (20.6) for companies in the personal products industry is roughly the same as United-Guardian's P/E.
United-Guardian's P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. Further research into factors such as insider buying and selling, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
United-Guardian's earnings per share fell by 7.8% in the last twelve months. But EPS is up 18% over the last 3 years. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 4.3% annually. So we might expect a relatively low P/E.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
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).
So What Does United-Guardian's Balance Sheet Tell Us?
With net cash of US$9.9m, United-Guardian has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 11% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.
The Verdict On United-Guardian's P/E Ratio
United-Guardian has a P/E of 21.3. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 17.3. The recent drop in earnings per share would make some investors cautious, but the healthy balance sheet means the company retains potential for future growth. If fails to eventuate, the current high P/E could prove to be temporary, as the share price falls.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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.' Although we don't have analyst forecasts, you might want to assess this data-rich visualization of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
You might be able to find a better buy than United-Guardian. 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.