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Here's What Global Payments Inc.'s (NYSE:GPN) P/E Is Telling Us

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The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Global Payments Inc.'s (NYSE:GPN) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. What is Global Payments's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 52.54. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $52.54 for every $1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for Global Payments

How Do You Calculate Global Payments's P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Global Payments:

P/E of 52.54 = $157.08 ÷ $2.99 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. 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 Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Global Payments's earnings per share fell by 8.5% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 13%.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, Global Payments has a higher P/E than the average company (32.3) in the it industry.

NYSE:GPN Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 7th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Global Payments shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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).

Is Debt Impacting Global Payments's P/E?

Net debt totals 20% of Global Payments's market cap. That's enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you're comparing it to companies without debt.

The Bottom Line On Global Payments's P/E Ratio

With a P/E ratio of 52.5, Global Payments is expected to grow earnings very strongly in the years to come. With some debt but no EPS growth last year, the market has high expectations of future profits.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. 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.

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.