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Here's How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF)

Simply Wall St

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how Abercrombie & Fitch Co.'s (NYSE:ANF) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, Abercrombie & Fitch's P/E ratio is 13.71. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $13.71 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for Abercrombie & Fitch

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Abercrombie & Fitch:

P/E of 13.71 = $14.62 ÷ $1.07 (Based on the year to August 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

How Does Abercrombie & Fitch's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (13.7) for companies in the specialty retail industry is roughly the same as Abercrombie & Fitch's P/E.

NYSE:ANF Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 31st 2019

Its P/E ratio suggests that Abercrombie & Fitch shareholders think that in the future it will perform about the same as other companies in its industry classification. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. Checking factors such as director buying and selling. could help you form your own view on if that will happen.

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. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Abercrombie & Fitch's 93% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. The cherry on top is that the five year growth rate was an impressive 15% per year. So I'd be surprised if the P/E ratio was not above average.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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 Abercrombie & Fitch's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

With net cash of US$249m, Abercrombie & Fitch has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 26% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Verdict On Abercrombie & Fitch's P/E Ratio

Abercrombie & Fitch trades on a P/E ratio of 13.7, which is below the US market average of 17.3. Not only should the net cash position reduce risk, but the recent growth has been impressive. One might conclude that the market is a bit pessimistic, given the low P/E ratio.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. 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.

But note: Abercrombie & Fitch 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.