To the annoyance of some shareholders, EQT Holdings (ASX:EQT) shares are down a considerable 34% in the last month. The recent drop has obliterated the annual return, with the share price now down 14% over that longer period.
Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more attractive to potential buyers. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.
How Does EQT Holdings's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
EQT Holdings's P/E of 20.36 indicates some degree of optimism towards the stock. As you can see below, EQT Holdings has a higher P/E than the average company (15.7) in the capital markets industry.
That means that the market expects EQT Holdings will outperform other companies in its industry. 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.
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. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.
EQT Holdings's earnings per share grew by 4.1% in the last twelve months. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 7.1% per year over the last five years.
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.
Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.
So What Does EQT Holdings's Balance Sheet Tell Us?
EQT Holdings has net cash of AU$56m. This is fairly high at 12% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.
The Verdict On EQT Holdings's P/E Ratio
EQT Holdings's P/E is 20.4 which is above average (13.9) in its market. EPS was up modestly better over the last twelve months. And the net cash position provides the company with multiple options. The high P/E suggests the market thinks further growth will come. Given EQT Holdings's P/E ratio has declined from 30.6 to 20.4 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is significantly less confident about the business today, than it was back then. For those who don't like to trade against momentum, that could be a warning sign, but a contrarian investor might want to take a closer look.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
You might be able to find a better buy than EQT Holdings. 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).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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