The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Hillenbrand, Inc.'s (NYSE:HI) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, Hillenbrand's P/E ratio is 16.57. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $16.57 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.
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 Hillenbrand:
P/E of 16.57 = $31.98 ÷ $1.93 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)
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 Does Hillenbrand's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (22.8) for companies in the machinery industry is higher than Hillenbrand's P/E.
Hillenbrand's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
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. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
In the last year, Hillenbrand grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 59% gain was both fast and well deserved. Having said that, the average EPS growth over the last three years wasn't so good, coming in at 2.7%.
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. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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).
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).
Hillenbrand's Balance Sheet
Hillenbrand's net debt is 13% of its market cap. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.
The Bottom Line On Hillenbrand's P/E Ratio
Hillenbrand's P/E is 16.6 which is below average (18.1) in the US market. The EPS growth last year was strong, and debt levels are quite reasonable. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified. Since analysts are predicting growth will continue, one might expect to see a higher P/E so it may be worth looking closer.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.