Unfortunately for some shareholders, the NVE (NASDAQ:NVEC) share price has dived 30% in the last thirty days. That drop has capped off a tough year for shareholders, with the share price down 47% in that time.
All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more attractive to potential investors. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
How Does NVE's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 17.59 that sentiment around NVE isn't particularly high. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (22.9) for companies in the semiconductor industry is higher than NVE's P/E.
Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that NVE shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Since the market seems unimpressed with NVE, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.
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. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
NVE's earnings per share fell by 9.8% in the last twelve months. But it has grown its earnings per share by 1.1% per year over the last five years.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.
NVE's Balance Sheet
NVE has net cash of US$22m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.
The Verdict On NVE's P/E Ratio
NVE has a P/E of 17.6. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 12.7. The recent drop in earnings per share would make some investors cautious, but the healthy balance sheet means the company retains the potential for future growth. If this growth fails to materialise, the current high P/E could prove to be temporary, as the share price falls. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become significantly less optimistic about NVE over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 25.2 back then to 17.6 today. For those who don't like to trade against momentum, that could be a warning sign, but a contrarian investor might want to take a closer look.
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. Although we don't have analyst forecasts shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
But note: NVE may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.