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Is International Paper Company’s (NYSE:IP) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

Gabriel Boyd

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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 show how you can use International Paper Company’s (NYSE:IP) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, International Paper’s P/E ratio is 11.31. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $11.31 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for International Paper

How Do I Calculate International Paper’s Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for International Paper:

P/E of 11.31 = $45.99 ÷ $4.07 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

International Paper’s earnings per share fell by 20% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 17%.

How Does International Paper’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see International Paper has a lower P/E than the average (17) in the packaging industry classification.

NYSE:IP PE PEG Gauge February 11th 19

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that International Paper shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.

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

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. That means it doesn’t take debt or cash into account. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

How Does International Paper’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Net debt totals 54% of International Paper’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 International Paper’s P/E Ratio

International Paper’s P/E is 11.3 which is below average (16.8) in the US market. 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 should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold they key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than International Paper. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.