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Here's What K12 Inc.'s (NYSE:LRN) P/E Is Telling Us

Simply Wall St

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll look at K12 Inc.'s (NYSE:LRN) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. K12 has a P/E ratio of 27.94, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $27.94 for every $1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for K12

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for K12:

P/E of 27.94 = $31.12 ÷ $1.11 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 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. 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.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

In the last year, K12 grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 270% gain was both fast and well deserved. The cherry on top is that the five year growth rate was an impressive 36% per year. With that kind of growth rate we would generally expect a high P/E ratio.

How Does K12's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that K12 has a higher P/E than the average (25.3) P/E for companies in the consumer services industry.

NYSE:LRN Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 13th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that K12 shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Is Debt Impacting K12's P/E?

K12 has net cash of US$203m. This is fairly high at 17% 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 K12's P/E Ratio

K12 has a P/E of 27.9. That's higher than the average in the US market, which is 17.5. Its net cash position is the cherry on top of its superb EPS growth. To us, this is the sort of company that we would expect to carry an above average price tag (relative to earnings).

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

But note: K12 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.