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Here's What InterContinental Hotels Group PLC's (LON:IHG) P/E 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 InterContinental Hotels Group PLC's (LON:IHG) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. InterContinental Hotels Group has a price to earnings ratio of 34.22, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 2.9%.

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price (in reporting currency) Ã· Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for InterContinental Hotels Group:

P/E of 34.22 = \$66.53 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, USD ) Ã· \$1.94 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each Â£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 Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

InterContinental Hotels Group saw earnings per share decrease by 34% last year. And over the longer term (3 years) earnings per share have decreased 34% annually. This could justify a low P/E.

Does InterContinental Hotels Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (18.7) for companies in the hospitality industry is lower than InterContinental Hotels Group's P/E.

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that InterContinental Hotels Group shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. 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.

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.

Is Debt Impacting InterContinental Hotels Group's P/E?

InterContinental Hotels Group has net debt worth 13% of its market capitalization. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.

The Verdict On InterContinental Hotels Group's P/E Ratio

InterContinental Hotels Group trades on a P/E ratio of 34.2, which is above the GB market average of 16.5. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it's fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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.

But note: InterContinental Hotels Group 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.