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A Rising Share Price Has Us Looking Closely At PBF Energy Inc's (NYSE:PBF) P/E Ratio

Simply Wall St

PBF Energy (NYSE:PBF) shareholders are no doubt pleased to see that the share price has bounced 40% in the last month alone, although it is still down 68% over the last quarter. But that will do little to salve the savage burn caused by the 70% share price decline, over the last year.

Assuming no other changes, a sharply higher share price makes a stock less attractive to potential buyers. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). So some would prefer to hold off buying when there is a lot of optimism towards a stock. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.

See our latest analysis for PBF Energy

How Does PBF Energy's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can tell from its P/E ratio of 3.48 that sentiment around PBF Energy isn't particularly high. The image below shows that PBF Energy has a lower P/E than the average (9.4) P/E for companies in the oil and gas industry.

NYSE:PBF Price Estimation Relative to Market May 15th 2020

This suggests that market participants think PBF Energy will underperform other companies in its industry. 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.

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. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

PBF Energy's 140% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. And earnings per share have improved by 15% annually, over the last three years. So you might say it really deserves to have an above-average P/E ratio.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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).

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.

How Does PBF Energy's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

PBF Energy has net debt worth a very significant 107% of its market capitalization. This level of debt justifies a relatively low P/E, so remain cognizant of the debt, if you're comparing it to other stocks.

The Verdict On PBF Energy's P/E Ratio

PBF Energy has a P/E of 3.5. That's below the average in the US market, which is 14.2. While the EPS growth last year was strong, the significant debt levels reduce the number of options available to management. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low. What is very clear is that the market has become less pessimistic about PBF Energy over the last month, with the P/E ratio rising from 2.5 back then to 3.5 today. If you like to buy stocks that could be turnaround opportunities, then this one might be a candidate; but if you're more sensitive to price, then you may feel the opportunity has passed.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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.

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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.