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Here's What Lear Corporation's (NYSE:LEA) P/E Ratio Is Telling Us

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll look at Lear Corporation's (NYSE:LEA) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Lear has a P/E ratio of 8.58, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $8.58 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Lear

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 Lear:

P/E of 8.58 = $117.47 ÷ $13.69 (Based on the year to September 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 is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

Does Lear 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. If you look at the image below, you can see Lear has a lower P/E than the average (16.7) in the auto components industry classification.

NYSE:LEA Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 5th 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Lear 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. 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. 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. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Lear saw earnings per share decrease by 31% last year. But EPS is up 18% over the last 5 years.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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.

So What Does Lear's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Net debt totals 14% of Lear'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 Verdict On Lear's P/E Ratio

Lear has a P/E of 8.6. That's below the average in the US market, which is 18.2. With only modest debt, it's likely the lack of EPS growth at least partially explains the pessimism implied by the P/E ratio.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. 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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.