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Don't Sell Banc of California, Inc. (NYSE:BANC) Before You Read This

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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 Banc of California, Inc.'s (NYSE:BANC) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Banc of California has a price to earnings ratio of 34.31, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $34.31 for every $1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for Banc of California

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 Banc of California:

P/E of 34.31 = $13.75 ÷ $0.40 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

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

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

Banc of California saw earnings per share decrease by 32% last year. And EPS is down 33% a year, over the last 3 years. This might lead to low expectations.

Does Banc of California Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (12.9) for companies in the banks industry is lower than Banc of California's P/E.

NYSE:BANC Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 3rd 2019

Banc of California's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

So What Does Banc of California's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Banc of California's net debt is considerable, at 113% of its market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you must keep in mind that these debt levels would usually warrant a relatively low P/E.

The Bottom Line On Banc of California's P/E Ratio

Banc of California has a P/E of 34.3. That's higher than the average in the US market, which is 18.2. With significant debt and no EPS growth last year, shareholders are betting on an improvement in earnings from the company.

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

But note: Banc of California may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio 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.