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Does W&T Offshore, Inc.'s (NYSE:WTI) P/E Ratio Signal A Buying Opportunity?

Simply Wall St

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at W&T Offshore, Inc.'s (NYSE:WTI) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. What is W&T Offshore's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 3.49. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 28.6%.

See our latest analysis for W&T Offshore

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for W&T Offshore:

P/E of 3.49 = $4.16 ÷ $1.19 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings 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 W&T Offshore 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. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (9.9) for companies in the oil and gas industry is higher than W&T Offshore's P/E.

NYSE:WTI Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 4th 2019

This suggests that market participants think W&T Offshore will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with W&T Offshore, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. 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.

W&T Offshore's 100% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. The cherry on top is that the five year growth rate was an impressive 31% per year. With that kind of growth rate we would generally expect a high P/E ratio.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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).

W&T Offshore's Balance Sheet

W&T Offshore's net debt is 97% of its market cap. This is enough debt that you'd have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Verdict On W&T Offshore's P/E Ratio

W&T Offshore has a P/E of 3.5. That's below the average in the US market, which is 17.4. While the EPS growth last year was strong, the significant debt levels reduce the number of options available to management. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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. 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.

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.