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Do You Know What Central Garden & Pet Company's (NASDAQ:CENT) P/E Ratio Means?

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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at Central Garden & Pet Company's (NASDAQ:CENT) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Central Garden & Pet has a P/E ratio of 13.73, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying \$13.73 for every \$1 in prior year profit.

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price Ã· Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Central Garden & Pet:

P/E of 13.73 = \$25.56 Ã· \$1.86 (Based on the year 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 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

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Central Garden & Pet's earnings per share fell by 3.3% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 48%.

How Does Central Garden & Pet'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 Central Garden & Pet has a lower P/E than the average (24.5) in the household products industry classification.

This suggests that market participants think Central Garden & Pet will underperform other companies in its industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

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

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future), by taking on debt (or spending its remaining cash).

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.

Central Garden & Pet's Balance Sheet

Central Garden & Pet's net debt is 16% of its market cap. That's enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you're comparing it to companies without debt.

The Bottom Line On Central Garden & Pet's P/E Ratio

Central Garden & Pet's P/E is 13.7 which is below average (17.7) in the US market. Since it only carries a modest debt load, it's likely the low expectations implied by the P/E ratio arise from the lack of recent earnings growth.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.' So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.