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Don't Sell LKQ Corporation (NASDAQ:LKQ) Before You Read This

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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 LKQ Corporation's (NASDAQ:LKQ) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, LKQ has a P/E ratio of 21.16. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 4.7%.

See our latest analysis for LKQ

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for LKQ:

P/E of 21.16 = $28.79 ÷ $1.36 (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. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.'

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

LKQ shrunk earnings per share by 24% over the last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 4.3% per year over the last five years. And over the longer term (3 years) earnings per share have decreased 1.0% annually. This could justify a low P/E.

How Does LKQ's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, LKQ has a higher P/E than the average company (19.1) in the retail distributors industry.

NasdaqGS:LKQ Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 6th 2019

LKQ's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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.

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.

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

LKQ has net debt worth 58% of its market capitalization. This is a reasonably significant level of debt -- all else being equal you'd expect a much lower P/E than if it had net cash.

The Bottom Line On LKQ's P/E Ratio

LKQ has a P/E of 21.2. That's higher than the average in the US market, which is 18.4. With relatively high debt, and no earnings per share growth over twelve months, it's safe to say the market believes the company will improve its earnings growth in the future.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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 report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

But note: LKQ 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.