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Is Fiserv, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:FISV) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

Simply Wall St

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll look at Fiserv, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:FISV) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Fiserv has a price to earnings ratio of 38, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $38 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Fiserv

How Do You Calculate Fiserv's P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Fiserv:

P/E of 38 = $93.91 ÷ $2.47 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

How Does Fiserv'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 (36.3) for companies in the it industry is roughly the same as Fiserv's P/E.

NasdaqGS:FISV Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 17th 2019

That indicates that the market expects Fiserv will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. I would further inform my view by checking insider buying and selling., among other things.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Fiserv saw earnings per share decrease by 27% last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 13%.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in 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.

Fiserv's Balance Sheet

Net debt totals 15% of Fiserv's market cap. That's enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you're comparing it to companies without debt.

The Verdict On Fiserv's P/E Ratio

Fiserv has a P/E of 38. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 18. With some debt but no EPS growth last year, the market has high expectations of future profits.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

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

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.