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Is Nathan's Famous, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:NATH) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Nathan's Famous, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:NATH) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Nathan's Famous has a P/E ratio of 13.65, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $13.65 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Nathan's Famous

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Nathan's Famous:

P/E of 13.65 = $71.85 ÷ $5.26 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

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 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 Nathan's Famous 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. The image below shows that Nathan's Famous has a lower P/E than the average (22.8) P/E for companies in the hospitality industry.

NasdaqGS:NATH Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 1st 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Nathan's Famous shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Since the market seems unimpressed with Nathan's Famous, 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.

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

In the last year, Nathan's Famous grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 379% gain was both fast and well deserved. The sweetener is that the annual five year growth rate of 21% is also impressive. With that kind of growth rate we would generally expect a high P/E ratio.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

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 Nathan's Famous's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Net debt totals 24% of Nathan's Famous's market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Verdict On Nathan's Famous's P/E Ratio

Nathan's Famous trades on a P/E ratio of 13.6, which is below the US market average of 17.8. The company does have a little debt, and EPS growth was good last year. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. We don't have analyst forecasts, but you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

You might be able to find a better buy than Nathan's Famous. 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.