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Don't Sell Lancaster Colony Corporation (NASDAQ:LANC) Before You Read This

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Lancaster Colony Corporation's (NASDAQ:LANC), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is Lancaster Colony's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 27.26. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 3.7%.

Check out our latest analysis for Lancaster Colony

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 Lancaster Colony:

P/E of 27.26 = $148.7 ÷ $5.46 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company 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 Lancaster Colony's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below Lancaster Colony has a P/E ratio that is fairly close for the average for the food industry, which is 26.1.

NasdaqGS:LANC Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 18th 2019

That indicates that the market expects Lancaster Colony will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. So if Lancaster Colony actually outperforms its peers going forward, that should be a positive for the share price. I would further inform my view by checking insider buying and selling., among other things.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Most would be impressed by Lancaster Colony earnings growth of 14% in the last year. And earnings per share have improved by 7.1% annually, over the last five years. With that performance, you might expect an above average P/E ratio.

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

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. 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).

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

How Does Lancaster Colony's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Lancaster Colony has net cash of US$187m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.

The Verdict On Lancaster Colony's P/E Ratio

Lancaster Colony has a P/E of 27.3. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 17.9. Its strong balance sheet gives the company plenty of resources for extra growth, and it has already proven it can grow. Therefore it seems reasonable that the market would have relatively high expectations of the company

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

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

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.