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Don't Sell SPX FLOW, Inc. (NYSE:FLOW) Before You Read This

Simply Wall St

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 SPX FLOW, Inc.'s (NYSE:FLOW) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, SPX FLOW's P/E ratio is 36.30. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $36.30 for every $1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for SPX FLOW

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for SPX FLOW:

P/E of 36.30 = $38.04 ÷ $1.05 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. 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 Does SPX FLOW's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, SPX FLOW has a higher P/E than the average company (19.9) in the machinery industry.

NYSE:FLOW Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 17th 2019

That means that the market expects SPX FLOW will outperform other companies in its industry. 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.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

SPX FLOW shrunk earnings per share by 37% over the last year. And EPS is down 20% a year, over the last 5 years. This could justify a pessimistic P/E.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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.

SPX FLOW's Balance Sheet

Net debt is 34% of SPX FLOW's market cap. You'd want to be aware of this fact, but it doesn't bother us.

The Verdict On SPX FLOW's P/E Ratio

SPX FLOW trades on a P/E ratio of 36.3, which is above its market average of 17.7. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it's safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years.

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: SPX FLOW 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.