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Is James Hardie Industries plc’s (ASX:JHX) PE Ratio A Signal To Sell For Investors?

Jonathon Baker

James Hardie Industries plc (ASX:JHX) is trading with a trailing P/E of 24.8x, which is higher than the industry average of 23.2x. Although some investors may jump to the conclusion that you should avoid the stock or sell if you own it, understanding the assumptions behind the P/E ratio might change your mind. Today, I will break down what the P/E ratio is, how to interpret it and what to watch out for. Check out our latest analysis for James Hardie Industries

Demystifying the P/E ratio

ASX:JHX PE PEG Gauge Oct 4th 17

P/E is a popular ratio used for relative valuation. It compares a stock’s price per share to the stock’s earnings per share. A more intuitive way of understanding the P/E ratio is to think of it as how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.

P/E Calculation for JHX

Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share

JHX Price-Earnings Ratio = 17.69 ÷ 0.559 = 24.8x

The P/E ratio isn’t a metric you view in isolation and only becomes useful when you compare it against other similar companies. We want to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar characteristics as JHX, such as size and country of operation. A quick method of creating a peer group is to use companies in the same industry, which is what I will do. At 24.8x, JHX’s P/E is higher than its industry peers (23.2x). This implies that investors are overvaluing each dollar of JHX’s earnings. Therefore, according to this analysis, JHX is an over-priced stock.

Assumptions to be aware of

Before you jump to the conclusion that JHX should be banished from your portfolio, it is important to realise that our conclusion rests on two assertions. The first is that our “similar companies” are actually similar to JHX, or else the difference in P/E might be a result of other factors. For example, if you compared lower risk firms with JHX, then investors would naturally value it at a lower price since it is a riskier investment. The second assumption that must hold true is that the stocks we are comparing JHX to are fairly valued by the market. If this is violated, JHX's P/E may be lower than its peers as they are actually overvalued by investors.

What this means for you:

Are you a shareholder? Since you may have already conducted your due diligence on JHX, the overvaluation of the stock may mean it is a good time to reduce your current holdings. But at the end of the day, keep in mind that relative valuation relies heavily on critical assumptions I've outlined above.

Are you a potential investor? If you are considering investing in JHX, basing your decision on the PE metric at one point in time is certainly not sufficient. I recommend you do additional analysis by looking at its intrinsic valuation and using other relative valuation ratios like PEG or EV/EBITDA.

PE is one aspect of your portfolio construction to consider when holding or entering into a stock. But it is certainly not the only factor. Take a look at our most recent infographic report on James Hardie Industries for a more in-depth analysis of the stock to help you make a well-informed investment decision. Since we know a limitation of PE is it doesn't properly account for growth, you can use our free platform to see my list of stocks with a high growth potential and see if their PE is still reasonable.

To help readers see pass 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.