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Do You Know What Seagate Technology plc's (NASDAQ:STX) 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). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Seagate Technology plc's (NASDAQ:STX), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Seagate Technology has a P/E ratio of 8.65. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $8.65 for every $1 in prior year profit.

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View our latest analysis for Seagate Technology

How Do I Calculate Seagate Technology'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 Seagate Technology:

P/E of 8.65 = $45.22 ÷ $5.23 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. 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

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. 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.

Seagate Technology's earnings made like a rocket, taking off 82% last year. Even better, EPS is up 72% per year over three years. So we'd absolutely expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

Does Seagate Technology Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (17.5) for companies in the tech industry is higher than Seagate Technology's P/E.

NasdaqGS:STX Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 21st 2019

Seagate Technology's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. 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

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. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

So What Does Seagate Technology's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Seagate Technology has net debt equal to 25% of its market cap. While it's worth keeping this in mind, it isn't a worry.

The Bottom Line On Seagate Technology's P/E Ratio

Seagate Technology's P/E is 8.6 which is below average (17.7) in the US market. The company hasn't stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.

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 the key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Seagate Technology. 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.