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Here’s How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS)

Dane Simmons

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The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Discover Financial Services’s (NYSE:DFS) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Discover Financial Services has a price to earnings ratio of 8.68, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 12%.

Check out our latest analysis for Discover Financial Services

How Do I Calculate Discover Financial Services’s Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Discover Financial Services:

P/E of 8.68 = $67.88 ÷ $7.82 (Based on the year to December 2018.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company earnings. 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 Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. 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.

It’s nice to see that Discover Financial Services grew EPS by a stonking 44% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 6.9% per year over the last five years. So we’d generally expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

How Does Discover Financial Services’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Discover Financial Services has a lower P/E than the average (10) P/E for companies in the consumer finance industry.

NYSE:DFS PE PEG Gauge February 12th 19

Discover Financial Services’s P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. 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

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

How Does Discover Financial Services’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Discover Financial Services’s net debt is 39% of its market cap. This is enough debt that you’d have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Verdict On Discover Financial Services’s P/E Ratio

Discover Financial Services’s P/E is 8.7 which is below average (16.8) in the US market. The company does have a little debt, and EPS growth was good last year. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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 Discover Financial Services. 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.