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Don't Sell Atlas Copco AB (STO:ATCO A) Before You Read This

Simply Wall St

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Atlas Copco AB's (STO:ATCO A) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Atlas Copco has a P/E ratio of 25.14, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 4.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for Atlas Copco

How Do I Calculate Atlas Copco's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Atlas Copco:

P/E of 25.14 = SEK342.00 ÷ SEK13.60 (Based on the year to December 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. 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 Does Atlas Copco's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. As you can see below, Atlas Copco has a higher P/E than the average company (17.4) in the machinery industry.

OM:ATCO A Price Estimation Relative to Market, February 1st 2020

That means that the market expects Atlas Copco will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and 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. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

Atlas Copco increased earnings per share by 2.7% last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 6.3%.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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.

So What Does Atlas Copco's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Atlas Copco's net debt is 1.2% of its market cap. The market might award it a higher P/E ratio if it had net cash, but its unlikely this low level of net borrowing is having a big impact on the P/E multiple.

The Verdict On Atlas Copco's P/E Ratio

Atlas Copco's P/E is 25.1 which is above average (19.8) in its market. With debt at prudent levels and improving earnings, it's fair to say the market expects steady progress in the future.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.