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Is Landstar System, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:LSTR) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

Simply Wall St
·4 mins read

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Landstar System, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:LSTR), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Landstar System has a price to earnings ratio of 18.10, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $18.10 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Landstar System

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Landstar System:

P/E of 18.10 = $103.590 ÷ $5.724 (Based on the year to December 2019.)

(Note: the above calculation results may not be precise due to rounding.)

Is A High P/E 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.

Does Landstar System Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below Landstar System has a P/E ratio that is fairly close for the average for the transportation industry, which is 18.0.

NasdaqGS:LSTR Price Estimation Relative to Market April 20th 2020
NasdaqGS:LSTR Price Estimation Relative to Market April 20th 2020

That indicates that the market expects Landstar System will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. Further research into factors such as insider buying and selling, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.

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. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Landstar System saw earnings per share decrease by 7.4% last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 13%.

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. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on 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).

Is Debt Impacting Landstar System's P/E?

Landstar System has net cash of US$299m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.

The Bottom Line On Landstar System's P/E Ratio

Landstar System trades on a P/E ratio of 18.1, which is above its market average of 13.6. The recent drop in earnings per share would make some investors cautious, but the net cash position means the company has time to improve: and the high P/E suggests the market thinks it will.

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 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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.