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Read This Before You Buy Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE:TSN) Because Of Its P/E Ratio

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This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how Tyson Foods, Inc.'s (NYSE:TSN) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. What is Tyson Foods's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 14.09. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $14.09 for every $1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for Tyson Foods

How Do You Calculate Tyson Foods's P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Tyson Foods:

P/E of 14.09 = $75.12 ÷ $5.33 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company 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 Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Tyson Foods's earnings per share fell by 30% in the last twelve months. But it has grown its earnings per share by 15% per year over the last five years.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Tyson Foods has a lower P/E than the average (22.5) P/E for companies in the food industry.

NYSE:TSN Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 4th 2019

This suggests that market participants think Tyson Foods will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Tyson Foods, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.

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. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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 spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

So What Does Tyson Foods's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Net debt is 42% of Tyson Foods's market cap. While it's worth keeping this in mind, it isn't a worry.

The Verdict On Tyson Foods's P/E Ratio

Tyson Foods has a P/E of 14.1. That's below the average in the US market, which is 18.1. 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 report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

But note: Tyson Foods 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 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.