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Here's What CITIC Limited's (HKG:267) P/E Ratio Is Telling Us

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This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to CITIC Limited's (HKG:267), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Based on the last twelve months, CITIC's P/E ratio is 6.14. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 16%.

See our latest analysis for CITIC

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

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for CITIC:

P/E of 6.14 = HK$10.6 ÷ HK$1.73 (Based on the year to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings 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.

Does CITIC Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (6.9) for companies in the industrials industry is higher than CITIC's P/E.

SEHK:267 Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 18th 2019

This suggests that market participants think CITIC will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or 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. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

It's great to see that CITIC grew EPS by 14% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 3 years is 4.3%. With that performance, you might expect an above average P/E ratio. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 2.3% a year, over 5 years.

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. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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.

How Does CITIC's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

CITIC has net debt equal to 29% of its market cap. While it's worth keeping this in mind, it isn't a worry.

The Verdict On CITIC's P/E Ratio

CITIC trades on a P/E ratio of 6.1, which is below the HK market average of 10.8. The EPS growth last year was strong, and debt levels are quite reasonable. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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.

You might be able to find a better buy than CITIC. 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 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.