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Here's What Genie Energy Ltd.'s (NYSE:GNE) P/E Ratio Is Telling Us

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. To keep it practical, we'll show how Genie Energy Ltd.'s (NYSE:GNE) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Genie Energy has a P/E ratio of 11.32. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $11.32 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Genie Energy

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 Genie Energy:

P/E of 11.32 = $6.76 ÷ $0.60 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company earnings. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

How Does Genie Energy's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Genie Energy has a lower P/E than the average (23.3) P/E for companies in the electric utilities industry.

NYSE:GNE Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 7th 2019
NYSE:GNE Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 7th 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Genie Energy shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

In the last year, Genie Energy grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 283% gain was both fast and well deserved. Even better, EPS is up 31% per year over three years. So we'd absolutely expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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.

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

So What Does Genie Energy's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

With net cash of US$32m, Genie Energy has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 17% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Verdict On Genie Energy's P/E Ratio

Genie Energy has a P/E of 11.3. That's below the average in the US market, which is 17.2. The net cash position gives plenty of options to the business, and the recent improvement in EPS is good to see. The below average P/E ratio suggests that market participants don't believe the strong growth will continue.

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.' So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

But note: Genie Energy may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.