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Here's How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:EA)

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Electronic Arts Inc.'s (NASDAQ:EA), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Electronic Arts has a price to earnings ratio of 11.22, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $11.22 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Electronic Arts

How Do I Calculate Electronic Arts's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Electronic Arts:

P/E of 11.22 = $103.23 ÷ $9.20 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High P/E 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 Electronic Arts's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (24.9) for companies in the entertainment industry is higher than Electronic Arts's P/E.

NasdaqGS:EA Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 9th 2019

Electronic Arts's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Electronic Arts, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.

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 unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

In the last year, Electronic Arts grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 191% gain was both fast and well deserved. The sweetener is that the annual five year growth rate of 48% is also impressive. So I'd be surprised if the P/E ratio was not above average.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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.

So What Does Electronic Arts's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

With net cash of US$3.9b, Electronic Arts has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 13% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Verdict On Electronic Arts's P/E Ratio

Electronic Arts has a P/E of 11.2. That's below the average in the US market, which is 18.5. The net cash position gives plenty of options to the business, and the recent improvement in EPS is good to see. The relatively low P/E ratio implies the market is pessimistic.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

You might be able to find a better buy than Electronic Arts. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.