Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. To keep it practical, we'll show how International Paper Company's (NYSE:IP) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, International Paper has a P/E ratio of 9.87. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 10.1%.
How Do You Calculate International Paper's P/E Ratio?
The formula for P/E is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for International Paper:
P/E of 9.87 = $39.18 ÷ $3.97 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 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 is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.
Does International Paper Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see International Paper has a lower P/E than the average (16.5) in the packaging industry classification.
International Paper's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with International Paper, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. 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
Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
International Paper saw earnings per share decrease by 37% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 6.5% per year over the last five years.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.
While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.
Is Debt Impacting International Paper's P/E?
International Paper has net debt worth 64% of its market capitalization. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.
The Bottom Line On International Paper's P/E Ratio
International Paper has a P/E of 9.9. That's below the average in the US market, which is 17.6. The P/E reflects market pessimism that probably arises from the lack of recent EPS growth, paired with significant leverage.
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.
But note: International Paper 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).
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 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.