Unfortunately for some shareholders, the IDP Education (ASX:IEL) share price has dived 33% in the last thirty days. Zooming out, the recent drop wiped out a year's worth of gains, with the share price now back where it was a year ago.
Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more 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). So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. 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). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.
Does IDP Education Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 44.99 that there is some investor optimism about IDP Education. The image below shows that IDP Education has a higher P/E than the average (16.2) P/E for companies in the consumer services industry.
That means that the market expects IDP Education will outperform other companies in its industry. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
IDP Education increased earnings per share by a whopping 34% last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 21%. With that performance, I would expect it to have an above average P/E ratio.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
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 IDP Education's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
IDP Education has net debt worth just 0.04% of its market capitalization. The market might award it a higher P/E ratio if it had net cash, but its unlikely this low level of net borrowing is having a big impact on the P/E multiple.
The Verdict On IDP Education's P/E Ratio
IDP Education's P/E is 45.0 which is way above average (13.9) in its market. While the company does use modest debt, its recent earnings growth is superb. So on this analysis a high P/E ratio seems reasonable. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become significantly less optimistic about IDP Education over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 67.6 back then to 45.0 today. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for a contrarian, it may signal opportunity.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.
But note: IDP Education may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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