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Here's What Riverview Financial Corporation's (NASDAQ:RIVE) P/E Ratio Is Telling Us

Simply Wall St

Of late the Riverview Financial (NASDAQ:RIVE) share price has softened like an ice cream in the sun, melting a full . But plenty of shareholders will still be smiling, given that the stock is up 8.7% over the last quarter. The stock has been solid, longer term, gaining 15% in the last year.

Assuming no other changes, a sharply higher share price makes a stock less attractive to potential buyers. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). The implication here is that deep value investors might steer clear when expectations of a company are too high. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.

View our latest analysis for Riverview Financial

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

Riverview Financial's P/E of 20.83 indicates some degree of optimism towards the stock. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (13.1) for companies in the banks industry is lower than Riverview Financial's P/E.

NasdaqGM:RIVE Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 1st 2020

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Riverview Financial shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

Riverview Financial's earnings made like a rocket, taking off 57% last year. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 6.0% a year, over 5 years.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in 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).

Is Debt Impacting Riverview Financial's P/E?

Riverview Financial has net cash of US$23m. This is fairly high at 20% 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 Riverview Financial's P/E Ratio

Riverview Financial trades on a P/E ratio of 20.8, which is above its market average of 18.9. The excess cash it carries is the gravy on top its fast EPS growth. To us, this is the sort of company that we would expect to carry an above average price tag (relative to earnings). Given Riverview Financial's P/E ratio has declined from 20.8 to 20.8 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is less confident about the business today, than it was back then. For those who don't like to trade against momentum, that could be a warning sign, but a contrarian investor might want to take a closer look.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. We don't have analyst forecasts, but shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

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.

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.