It's great to see SAS (STO:SAS) shareholders have their patience rewarded with a 31% share price pop in the last month. But shareholders may not all be feeling jubilant, since the share price is still down 18% in the last year.
All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. 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). The implication here is that deep value investors might steer clear when expectations of a company are too high. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock 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.
How Does SAS's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 19.33 that there is some investor optimism about SAS. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (8.4) for companies in the airlines industry is lower than SAS's P/E.
That means that the market expects SAS will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.
SAS's earnings per share fell by 72% in the last twelve months. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 19% annually. This growth rate might warrant a below average P/E ratio.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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 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.
Is Debt Impacting SAS's P/E?
SAS has net debt worth 11% of its market capitalization. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.
The Bottom Line On SAS's P/E Ratio
SAS has a P/E of 19.3. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 18.0. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it's safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years. What we know for sure is that investors have become more excited about SAS recently, since they have pushed its P/E ratio from 14.7 to 19.3 over the last month. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might mean it's time to put the stock on a watchlist, or research it. But the contrarian may see it as a missed opportunity.
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.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.