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Is HKBN Ltd.'s (HKG:1310) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

Simply Wall St

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at HKBN Ltd.'s (HKG:1310) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, HKBN has a P/E ratio of 71.10. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying HK$71.10 for every HK$1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for HKBN

How Do I Calculate HKBN's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for HKBN:

P/E of 71.10 = HK$13.78 ÷ HK$0.19 (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, HKBN has a much higher P/E than the average company (16.9) in the telecom industry.

SEHK:1310 Price Estimation Relative to Market, November 29th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that HKBN shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

When earnings fall, the 'E' decreases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

HKBN shrunk earnings per share by 51% over the last year. But EPS is up 29% over the last 5 years. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 7.5% per year over the last three years. This growth rate might warrant a low P/E ratio.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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.

So What Does HKBN's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Net debt totals 50% of HKBN's market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.

The Verdict On HKBN's P/E Ratio

HKBN's P/E is 71.1 which suggests the market is more focussed on the future opportunity rather than the current level of earnings. With relatively high debt, and no earnings per share growth over twelve months, it's safe to say the market believes the company will improve its earnings growth in the future.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine. 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 HKBN. 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.