Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Equals Group (LON:EQLS) share price has dived 31% in the last thirty days. Indeed the recent decline has arguably caused some bitterness for shareholders who have held through the 59% drop over twelve months.
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. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.
Does Equals Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
Equals Group's P/E of 30.49 indicates some degree of optimism towards the stock. As you can see below, Equals Group has a higher P/E than the average company (27.0) in the it industry.
That means that the market expects Equals Group will outperform other companies in its industry. 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
Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.
Equals Group saw earnings per share decrease by 25% last year.
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 Equals Group's Balance Sheet Tell Us?
The extra options and safety that comes with Equals Group's UK£4.8m net cash position means that it deserves a higher P/E than it would if it had a lot of net debt.
The Bottom Line On Equals Group's P/E Ratio
Equals Group trades on a P/E ratio of 30.5, which is above its market average of 16.3. Falling earnings per share is probably keeping traditional value investors away, but the relatively strong balance sheet will allow the company time to invest in growth. Clearly, the high P/E indicates shareholders think it will! What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become significantly less optimistic about Equals Group over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 44.0 back then to 30.5 today. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for a contrarian, it may signal opportunity.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.
But note: Equals Group 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).
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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