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Do You Know What Grand Canyon Education, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:LOPE) P/E Ratio Means?

Simply Wall St

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how Grand Canyon Education, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:LOPE) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Grand Canyon Education has a P/E ratio of 23.8, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 4.2%.

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How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Grand Canyon Education:

P/E of 23.8 = $114.11 ÷ $4.79 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. 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 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. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Grand Canyon Education's earnings per share grew by -2.6% in the last twelve months. And earnings per share have improved by 18% annually, over the last five years.

Does Grand Canyon Education Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

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 (23.8) for companies in the consumer services industry is roughly the same as Grand Canyon Education's P/E.

NasdaqGS:LOPE Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 20th 2019

Grand Canyon Education's P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. I inform my view byby checking management tenure and remuneration, among other things.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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 Grand Canyon Education's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Grand Canyon Education's net debt is 2.9% of its market cap. The market might award it a higher P/E ratio if it had net cash, but its unlikely this low level of net borrowing is having a big impact on the P/E multiple.

The Verdict On Grand Canyon Education's P/E Ratio

Grand Canyon Education has a P/E of 23.8. That's higher than the average in the US market, which is 17.7. With debt at prudent levels and improving earnings, it's fair to say the market expects steady progress in the future.

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.

You might be able to find a better buy than Grand Canyon Education. 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).

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.