H.G. Infra Engineering (NSE:HGINFRA) shareholders are no doubt pleased to see that the share price has had a great month, posting a 33% gain, recovering from prior weakness. The full year gain of 16% is pretty reasonable, too.
All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. 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 some would prefer to hold off buying when there is a lot of optimism towards a stock. 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). 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 H.G. Infra Engineering's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
H.G. Infra Engineering's P/E is 10.97. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (11.7) for companies in the construction industry is roughly the same as H.G. Infra Engineering's P/E.
H.G. Infra Engineering's P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. Further research into factors such as insider buying and selling, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.
H.G. Infra Engineering increased earnings per share by a whopping 31% last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 63% per year over the last five years. So we'd generally expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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.
H.G. Infra Engineering's Balance Sheet
H.G. Infra Engineering's net debt is 3.7% of its market cap. So it doesn't have as many options as it would with net cash, but its debt would not have much of an impact on its P/E ratio.
The Verdict On H.G. Infra Engineering's P/E Ratio
H.G. Infra Engineering trades on a P/E ratio of 11.0, which is below the IN market average of 13.1. The company hasn't stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue. Given analysts are expecting further growth, one might have expected a higher P/E ratio. That may be worth further research. What we know for sure is that investors have become more excited about H.G. Infra Engineering recently, since they have pushed its P/E ratio from 8.2 to 11.0 over the last month. If you like to buy stocks that have recently impressed the market, then this one might be a candidate; but if you prefer to invest when there is 'blood in the streets', then you may feel the opportunity has passed.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.
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 modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.