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Is Hong Kong Finance Group Limited's (HKG:1273) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

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The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at Hong Kong Finance Group Limited's (HKG:1273) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. What is Hong Kong Finance Group's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 4.92. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying HK\$4.92 for every HK\$1 in prior year profit.

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share Ã· Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Hong Kong Finance Group:

P/E of 4.92 = HK\$0.50 Ã· HK\$0.10 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each HK\$1 of company earnings. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

Does Hong Kong Finance Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see Hong Kong Finance Group has a lower P/E than the average (10.5) in the mortgage industry classification.

This suggests that market participants think Hong Kong Finance Group will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Hong Kong Finance Group, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Hong Kong Finance Group saw earnings per share decrease by 16% last year. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 2.2% per year over the last five years. This growth rate might warrant a below average 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. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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).

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.

So What Does Hong Kong Finance Group's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Hong Kong Finance Group's net debt is considerable, at 255% 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 Hong Kong Finance Group's P/E Ratio

Hong Kong Finance Group trades on a P/E ratio of 4.9, which is below the HK market average of 10.8. Given meaningful debt, and a lack of recent growth, the market looks to be extrapolating this recent performance; reflecting low expectations for the future.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. We don't have analyst forecasts, but shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

You might be able to find a better buy than Hong Kong Finance Group. 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.