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Do You Know What United Rentals, Inc.’s (NYSE:URI) P/E Ratio Means?

Audra Newberry

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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 United Rentals, Inc.’s (NYSE:URI) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, United Rentals’s P/E ratio is 9.52. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 10%.

See our latest analysis for United Rentals

How Do You Calculate United Rentals’s P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for United Rentals:

P/E of 9.52 = $126.29 ÷ $13.26 (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 necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

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. Earnings growth means that in the future the ‘E’ will be higher. 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.

United Rentals shrunk earnings per share by 17% over the last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 30% per year over the last five years.

How Does United Rentals’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that United Rentals has a lower P/E than the average (11.8) P/E for companies in the trade distributors industry.

NYSE:URI PE PEG Gauge February 11th 19

This suggests that market participants think United Rentals will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with United Rentals, it’s quite possible it could surprise on the upside. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

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 United Rentals’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

United Rentals has net debt worth a very significant 116% of its market capitalization. This is a relatively high level of debt, so the stock probably deserves a relatively low P/E ratio. Keep that in mind when comparing it to other companies.

The Verdict On United Rentals’s P/E Ratio

United Rentals trades on a P/E ratio of 9.5, which is below the US market average of 16.8. Given meaningful debt, and a lack of recent growth, the market looks to be extrapolating this recent performance; reflecting low expectations for the future.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold they key to an excellent investment decision.

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

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.