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Don't Sell Ship Finance International Limited (NYSE:SFL) 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. To keep it practical, we'll show how Ship Finance International Limited's (NYSE:SFL) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Ship Finance International has a P/E ratio of 16.26, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 6.2%.

See our latest analysis for Ship Finance International

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 Ship Finance International:

P/E of 16.26 = $12.55 ÷ $0.77 (Based on the year 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. 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

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Ship Finance International saw earnings per share decrease by 19% last year. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 6.3% annually. This growth rate might warrant a below average P/E ratio.

How Does Ship Finance International's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (15.2) for companies in the shipping industry is roughly the same as Ship Finance International's P/E.

NYSE:SFL Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 6th 2019
NYSE:SFL Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 6th 2019

Its P/E ratio suggests that Ship Finance International shareholders think that in the future it will perform about the same as other companies in its industry classification. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. I inform my view byby checking management tenure and remuneration, among other things.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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.

Ship Finance International's Balance Sheet

Ship Finance International's net debt is considerable, at 172% of its market cap. This level of debt justifies a relatively low P/E, so remain cognizant of the debt, if you're comparing it to other stocks.

The Verdict On Ship Finance International's P/E Ratio

Ship Finance International's P/E is 16.3 which is about average (17.4) in the US market. With significant debt and no EPS growth last year, the P/E suggests shareholders are expecting higher profit in the future.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. 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.

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.