The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how The York Water Company’s (NASDAQ:YORW) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. York Water has a price to earnings ratio of 30.48, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $30.48 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.
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How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?
The formula for P/E is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for York Water:
P/E of 30.48 = $31.28 ÷ $1.03 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)
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 isn’t a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business’s prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. Earnings growth means that in the future the ‘E’ will be higher. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.
York Water’s earnings per share grew by -6.4% in the last twelve months. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 5.9%.
How Does York Water’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that York Water has a P/E ratio that is roughly in line with the water utilities industry average (28.5).
Its P/E ratio suggests that York Water shareholders think that in the future it will perform about the same as other companies in its industry classification. So if York Water actually outperforms its peers going forward, that should be a positive for the share price. Further research into factors such asmanagement tenure, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.
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. 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).
Is Debt Impacting York Water’s P/E?
York Water’s net debt is 23% of its market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.
The Verdict On York Water’s P/E Ratio
York Water trades on a P/E ratio of 30.5, which is above the US market average of 16.8. With debt at prudent levels and improving earnings, it’s fair to say the market expects steady progress in the future.
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 report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
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.
To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.
The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.