Netflix, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:NFLX) price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 77x 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. Although, it's not wise to just take the P/E at face value as there may be an explanation why it's so lofty.
Netflix certainly has been doing a good job lately as its earnings growth has been positive while most other companies have been seeing their earnings go backwards. It seems that many are expecting the company to continue defying the broader market adversity, which has increased investors’ willingness to pay up for the stock. You'd really hope so, otherwise you're paying a pretty hefty price for no particular reason.
If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report on Netflix.
Does Growth Match The High P/E?
Netflix'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.
If we review the last year of earnings growth, the company posted a terrific increase of 97%. The strong recent performance means it was also able to grow EPS by 525% in total over the last three years. Accordingly, shareholders would have probably welcomed those medium-term rates of earnings growth.
Turning to the outlook, the next three years should generate growth of 34% per annum as estimated by the analysts watching the company. With the market only predicted to deliver 14% per annum, the company is positioned for a stronger earnings result.
In light of this, it's understandable that Netflix's P/E sits above the majority of other companies. It seems most investors are expecting this strong future growth and are willing to pay more for the stock.
The Key Takeaway
Typically, we'd caution against reading too much into price-to-earnings ratios when settling on investment decisions, though it can reveal plenty about what other market participants think about the company.
We've established that Netflix maintains its high P/E on the strength of its forecast growth being higher than the wider market, as expected. Right now shareholders are comfortable with the P/E as they are quite confident future earnings aren't under threat. Unless these conditions change, they will continue to provide strong support to the share price.
You always need to take note of risks, for example - Netflix has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with a strong growth track record, trading on a P/E below 20x.
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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