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Don’t Sell Novanta Inc (NASDAQ:NOVT) Before You Read This

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 Novanta Inc’s (NASDAQ:NOVT) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, Novanta’s P/E ratio is 64.44. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $64.44 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Novanta

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Novanta:

P/E of 64.44 = $72.33 ÷ $1.12 (Based on the year to September 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. 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.

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.

Novanta’s earnings per share fell by 18% in the last twelve months. But it has grown its earnings per share by 29% per year over the last five years.

How Does Novanta’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Novanta has a significantly higher P/E than the average (20.9) P/E for companies in the electronic industry.

NasdaqGS:NOVT PE PEG Gauge November 21st 18

That means that the market expects Novanta will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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

Don’t forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. 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.

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.

How Does Novanta’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Novanta’s net debt is 5.7% of its market cap. It would probably trade on a higher P/E ratio if it had a lot of cash, but I doubt it is having a big impact.

The Verdict On Novanta’s P/E Ratio

Novanta trades on a P/E ratio of 64.4, which is multiples above the US market average of 17.9. With some debt but no EPS growth last year, the market has high expectations of future profits.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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.

You might be able to find a better buy than Novanta. 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).

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 editorial-team@simplywallst.com.