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Here's How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand SolarEdge Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:SEDG)

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. To keep it practical, we'll show how SolarEdge Technologies, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:SEDG) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, SolarEdge Technologies's P/E ratio is 15.17. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $15.17 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for SolarEdge Technologies

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for SolarEdge Technologies:

P/E of 15.17 = $43.2 ÷ $2.85 (Based on the year to December 2018.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.'

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

SolarEdge Technologies increased earnings per share by a whopping 43% last year. And earnings per share have improved by 27% annually, over the last three years. I'd therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.

Does SolarEdge Technologies Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see SolarEdge Technologies has a lower P/E than the average (20.1) in the semiconductor industry classification.

NasdaqGS:SEDG Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 23rd 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that SolarEdge Technologies shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. 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.

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. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

How Does SolarEdge Technologies's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

SolarEdge Technologies has net cash of US$296m. This is fairly high at 15% 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 Verdict On SolarEdge Technologies's P/E Ratio

SolarEdge Technologies trades on a P/E ratio of 15.2, which is below the US market average of 18. It grew its EPS nicely over the last year, and the healthy balance sheet implies there is more potential for growth. The below average P/E ratio suggests that market participants don't believe the strong growth will continue.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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.

You might be able to find a better buy than SolarEdge Technologies. 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).

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.