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Is PPL Corporation's (NYSE:PPL) 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 apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to PPL Corporation's (NYSE:PPL), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. PPL has a price to earnings ratio of 14.27, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $14.27 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for PPL

How Do You Calculate PPL's P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for PPL:

P/E of 14.27 = $35.51 ÷ $2.49 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

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

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. If you look at the image below, you can see PPL has a lower P/E than the average (24.5) in the electric utilities industry classification.

NYSE:PPL Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 10th 2020
NYSE:PPL Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 10th 2020

This suggests that market participants think PPL will underperform other companies in its industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

PPL increased earnings per share by an impressive 17% over the last twelve months. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 12%. This could arguably justify a relatively high P/E ratio. In contrast, EPS has decreased by 3.0%, annually, over 3 years.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

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. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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).

So What Does PPL's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Net debt totals 87% of PPL's market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.

The Verdict On PPL's P/E Ratio

PPL has a P/E of 14.3. That's below the average in the US market, which is 18.9. The company may have significant debt, but 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 it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

But note: PPL 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 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.