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Read This Before You Buy Agricultural Bank of China Limited (HKG:1288) Because Of Its P/E Ratio

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll look at Agricultural Bank of China Limited's (HKG:1288) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. What is Agricultural Bank of China's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 4.78. That means that at current prices, buyers pay HK$4.78 for every HK$1 in trailing yearly profits.

See our latest analysis for Agricultural Bank of China

How Do I Calculate Agricultural Bank of China's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price (in reporting currency) ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Agricultural Bank of China:

P/E of 4.78 = CN¥2.78 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, CNY ) ÷ CN¥0.58 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each HK$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.

Does Agricultural Bank of China 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. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (6.2) for companies in the banks industry is higher than Agricultural Bank of China's P/E.

SEHK:1288 Price Estimation Relative to Market, September 5th 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Agricultural Bank of China shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. 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

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Agricultural Bank of China shrunk earnings per share by 2.8% last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 1.2%.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.

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.

Is Debt Impacting Agricultural Bank of China's P/E?

Net debt totals 11% of Agricultural Bank of China's market cap. That's enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you're comparing it to companies without debt.

The Verdict On Agricultural Bank of China's P/E Ratio

Agricultural Bank of China has a P/E of 4.8. That's below the average in the HK market, which is 10.4. With only modest debt, it's likely the lack of EPS growth at least partially explains the pessimism implied by the P/E ratio.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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 the key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than Agricultural Bank of China. 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.