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Belden Inc.'s (NYSE:BDC) price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 32.9x might make it look like a strong sell right now compared to the market in the United States, where around half of the companies have P/E ratios below 19x and even P/E's below 11x are quite common. However, the P/E might be quite high for a reason and it requires further investigation to determine if it's justified.
Belden could be doing better as its earnings have been going backwards lately while most other companies have been seeing positive earnings growth. It might be that many expect the dour earnings performance to recover substantially, which has kept the P/E from collapsing. You'd really hope so, otherwise you're paying a pretty hefty price for no particular reason.
Keen to find out how analysts think Belden's future stacks up against the industry? In that case, our free report is a great place to start.
Does Growth Match The High P/E?
Belden's P/E ratio would be typical for a company that's expected to deliver very strong growth, and importantly, perform much better than the market.
Taking a look back first, the company's earnings per share growth last year wasn't something to get excited about as it posted a disappointing decline of 21%. Even so, admirably EPS has lifted 82% in aggregate from three years ago, notwithstanding the last 12 months. Accordingly, while they would have preferred to keep the run going, shareholders would probably welcome the medium-term rates of earnings growth.
Looking ahead now, EPS is anticipated to climb by 77% during the coming year according to the six analysts following the company. Meanwhile, the rest of the market is forecast to only expand by 17%, which is noticeably less attractive.
With this information, we can see why Belden is trading at such a high P/E compared to the market. Apparently shareholders aren't keen to offload something that is potentially eyeing a more prosperous future.
The Final Word
It's argued the price-to-earnings ratio is an inferior measure of value within certain industries, but it can be a powerful business sentiment indicator.
As we suspected, our examination of Belden's analyst forecasts revealed that its superior earnings outlook is contributing to its high P/E. At this stage investors feel the potential for a deterioration in earnings isn't great enough to justify a lower P/E ratio. Unless these conditions change, they will continue to provide strong support to the share price.
It's always necessary to consider the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 1 warning sign with Belden, and understanding should be part of your investment process.
If you're unsure about the strength of Belden's business, why not explore our interactive list of stocks with solid business fundamentals for some other companies you may have missed.
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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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