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Read This Before You Buy Service Corporation International (NYSE:SCI) Because Of Its P/E Ratio

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Service Corporation International’s (NYSE:SCI) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Service International has a price to earnings ratio of 16.51, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $16.51 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for Service International

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Service International:

P/E of 16.51 = $45.01 ÷ $2.73 (Based on the year to September 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $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 Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. 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. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Service International increased earnings per share by a whopping 40% last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 32% per year over the last five years. With that performance, I would expect it to have an above average P/E ratio.

How Does Service International’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 Service International has a lower P/E than the average (24.2) P/E for companies in the consumer services industry.

NYSE:SCI PE PEG Gauge December 11th 18

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Service International shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. 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.

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. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future), by taking on debt (or spending its remaining cash).

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 Service International’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Net debt totals 43% of Service International’s 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 Service International’s P/E Ratio

Service International’s P/E is 16.5 which is about average (17.2) in the US market. Given it has reasonable debt levels, and grew earnings strongly last year, the P/E indicates the market has doubts this growth can be sustained.

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 they key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than Service International. 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).

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.