This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how Ames National Corporation's (NASDAQ:ATLO) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Ames National has a P/E ratio of 14.2, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $14.2 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.
How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?
The formula for price to earnings is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for Ames National:
P/E of 14.2 = $26.8 ÷ $1.89 (Based on the year to June 2019.)
Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?
A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.'
How Does Ames National's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. As you can see below, Ames National has a higher P/E than the average company (12.3) in the banks industry.
That means that the market expects Ames National will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.
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. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.
It's great to see that Ames National grew EPS by 17% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 2.6%. This could arguably justify a relatively high P/E ratio.
Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.
So What Does Ames National's Balance Sheet Tell Us?
Ames National has net cash of US$56m. This is fairly high at 23% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.
The Bottom Line On Ames National's P/E Ratio
Ames National trades on a P/E ratio of 14.2, which is below the US market average of 17.8. It grew its EPS nicely over the last year, and the healthy balance sheet implies there is more potential for growth. The relatively low P/E ratio implies the market is pessimistic.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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.' We don't have analyst forecasts, but shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
You might be able to find a better buy than Ames National. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).
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 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.