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Is NZX Limited's (NZSE:NZX) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

Simply Wall St

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 NZX Limited's (NZSE:NZX) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. NZX has a price to earnings ratio of 25.67, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 3.9%.

See our latest analysis for NZX

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for NZX:

P/E of 25.67 = NZ$1.27 ÷ NZ$0.05 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each NZ$1 the company has earned over the last year. 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.

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

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that NZX has a higher P/E than the average (18.5) P/E for companies in the capital markets industry.

NZSE:NZX Price Estimation Relative to Market, September 29th 2019

NZX's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

NZX maintained roughly steady earnings over the last twelve months. But over the longer term (3 years), earnings per share have increased by 12%.

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. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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 NZX's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

NZX's net debt is 6.5% of its market cap. It would probably trade on a higher P/E ratio if it had a lot of cash, but I doubt it is having a big impact.

The Verdict On NZX's P/E Ratio

NZX trades on a P/E ratio of 25.7, which is above its market average of 18.8. With debt at prudent levels and improving earnings, it's fair to say the market expects steady progress in the future.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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 be able to find a better stock than NZX. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.