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Here's How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand First Financial Bancorp. (NASDAQ:FFBC)

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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 First Financial Bancorp.'s (NASDAQ:FFBC) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. First Financial Bancorp has a price to earnings ratio of 11.6, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 8.6%.

Check out our latest analysis for First Financial Bancorp

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for First Financial Bancorp:

P/E of 11.6 = $22.32 ÷ $1.92 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. 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.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

It's great to see that First Financial Bancorp grew EPS by 15% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 17%. So one might expect an above average P/E ratio.

How Does First Financial Bancorp's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that First Financial Bancorp has a P/E ratio that is roughly in line with the banks industry average (12.5).

NasdaqGS:FFBC Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 3rd 2019

That indicates that the market expects First Financial Bancorp will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. So if First Financial Bancorp actually outperforms its peers going forward, that should be a positive for the share price. Further research into factors such asmanagement tenure, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

First Financial Bancorp's Balance Sheet

Net debt totals 65% of First Financial Bancorp's market cap. This is enough debt that you'd have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Bottom Line On First Financial Bancorp's P/E Ratio

First Financial Bancorp's P/E is 11.6 which is below average (17) in the US market. While the EPS growth last year was strong, the significant debt levels reduce the number of options available to management. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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 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.

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.