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Don't Sell NOW Inc. (NYSE:DNOW) Before You Read This

Simply Wall St

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 NOW Inc.'s (NYSE:DNOW), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is NOW's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 21.33. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $21.33 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for NOW

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for NOW:

P/E of 21.33 = USD11.39 ÷ USD0.53 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

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 Does NOW'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 NOW has a higher P/E than the average (17.1) P/E for companies in the trade distributors industry.

NYSE:DNOW Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 14th 2020

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that NOW shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. 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.

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. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

NOW's earnings made like a rocket, taking off 80% last year. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 16% a year, over 5 years.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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.

So What Does NOW's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

The extra options and safety that comes with NOW's US$113m net cash position means that it deserves a higher P/E than it would if it had a lot of net debt.

The Verdict On NOW's P/E Ratio

NOW's P/E is 21.3 which is above average (18.9) in its market. Its net cash position is the cherry on top of its superb EPS growth. So based on this analysis we'd expect NOW to have a high P/E ratio.

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.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than NOW. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.