U.S. Markets open in 3 hrs 49 mins

Here's How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand DLH Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ:DLHC)

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to DLH Holdings Corp.'s (NASDAQ:DLHC), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. DLH Holdings has a price to earnings ratio of 9.26, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 10.8%.

See our latest analysis for DLH Holdings

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for DLH Holdings:

P/E of 9.26 = $4.26 ÷ $0.46 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 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 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.

Does DLH Holdings Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. If you look at the image below, you can see DLH Holdings has a lower P/E than the average (19.9) in the professional services industry classification.

NasdaqCM:DLHC Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 1st 2019

DLH Holdings's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

In the last year, DLH Holdings grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 386% gain was both fast and well deserved. The sweetener is that the annual five year growth rate of 49% is also impressive. With that kind of growth rate we would generally expect a high P/E ratio. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 21% a year, over 3 years.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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).

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.

DLH Holdings's Balance Sheet

DLH Holdings's net debt is considerable, at 111% of its market cap. This level of debt justifies a relatively low P/E, so remain cognizant of the debt, if you're comparing it to other stocks.

The Bottom Line On DLH Holdings's P/E Ratio

DLH Holdings has a P/E of 9.3. That's below the average in the US market, which is 18.4. The company may have significant debt, but EPS growth was good last year. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

You might be able to find a better buy than DLH Holdings. 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.