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Here’s What Kansas City Southern’s (NYSE:KSU) P/E Is Telling Us

Brandie Wetzel

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll show how you can use Kansas City Southern’s (NYSE:KSU) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Kansas City Southern has a P/E ratio of 9.86, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 10%.

See our latest analysis for Kansas City Southern

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Kansas City Southern:

P/E of 9.86 = $98.03 ÷ $9.95 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company earnings. That isn’t a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business’s prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. Earnings growth means that in the future the ‘E’ will be higher. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

It’s nice to see that Kansas City Southern grew EPS by a stonking 95% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 21% per year over the last five years. I’d therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.

How Does Kansas City Southern’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (8.3) for companies in the transportation industry is lower than Kansas City Southern’s P/E.

NYSE:KSU PE PEG Gauge January 8th 19

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Kansas City Southern shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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 Kansas City Southern’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Kansas City Southern has net debt worth 26% of its market capitalization. This is a reasonably significant level of debt — all else being equal you’d expect a much lower P/E than if it had net cash.

The Verdict On Kansas City Southern’s P/E Ratio

Kansas City Southern’s P/E is 9.9 which is below average (16.5) in the US market. The company does have a little debt, and EPS growth was good last year. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low.

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. 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.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.