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Do You Know What Tesco PLC's (LON:TSCO) P/E Ratio Means?

Simply Wall St

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll show how you can use Tesco PLC's (LON:TSCO) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, Tesco's P/E ratio is 18.19. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying £18.19 for every £1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for Tesco

How Do I Calculate Tesco'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 Tesco:

P/E of 18.19 = £2.48 ÷ £0.14 (Based on the year to February 2019.)

Is A High P/E 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

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. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

It's great to see that Tesco grew EPS by 13% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 3 years is 61%. So one might expect an above average P/E ratio. In contrast, EPS has decreased by 10%, annually, over 5 years.

How Does Tesco's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. If you look at the image below, you can see Tesco has a lower P/E than the average (20.8) in the consumer retailing industry classification.

LSE:TSCO Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 3rd 2019

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

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. 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.

How Does Tesco's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Tesco has net debt worth 21% of its market capitalization. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.

The Bottom Line On Tesco's P/E Ratio

Tesco trades on a P/E ratio of 18.2, which is above the GB market average of 16.4. While the company does use modest debt, its recent earnings growth is very good. So on this analysis it seems reasonable that its P/E ratio is above average.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

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.

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.