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Is Information Services Corporation's (TSE:ISV) 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 Information Services Corporation's (TSE:ISV) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Information Services has a price to earnings ratio of 17.63, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 5.7%.

Check out our latest analysis for Information Services

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Information Services:

P/E of 17.63 = CA$15.36 ÷ CA$0.87 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each CA$1 of company earnings. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price'.

How Does Information Services's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. As you can see below, Information Services has a higher P/E than the average company (12.4) in the real estate industry.

TSX:ISV Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 1st 2020

Information Services's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. 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

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

Information Services shrunk earnings per share by 55% over the last year. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 4.4% per year over the last five years. This might lead to muted expectations.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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 Information Services's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

The extra options and safety that comes with Information Services's CA$1.3m net cash position means that it deserves a higher P/E than it would if it had a lot of net debt.

The Verdict On Information Services's P/E Ratio

Information Services's P/E is 17.6 which is above average (15.9) in its market. Falling earnings per share is probably keeping traditional value investors away, but the relatively strong balance sheet will allow the company time to invest in growth. Clearly, the high P/E indicates shareholders think it will!

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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.

You might be able to find a better buy than Information Services. 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.