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Is Sensient Technologies Corporation's (NYSE:SXT) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

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Simply Wall St
·4 min read
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The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at Sensient Technologies Corporation's (NYSE:SXT) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Sensient Technologies has a price to earnings ratio of 28.88, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $28.88 for every $1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for Sensient Technologies

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Sensient Technologies:

P/E of 28.88 = $47.830 ÷ $1.656 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2020.)

(Note: the above calculation results may not be precise due to rounding.)

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.

Does Sensient Technologies Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Sensient Technologies has a higher P/E than the average (19.1) P/E for companies in the chemicals industry.

NYSE:SXT Price Estimation Relative to Market May 11th 2020
NYSE:SXT Price Estimation Relative to Market May 11th 2020

That means that the market expects Sensient Technologies will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

Sensient Technologies shrunk earnings per share by 54% over the last year. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 6.3% per year over the last five years. This could justify a pessimistic P/E.

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. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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).

Is Debt Impacting Sensient Technologies's P/E?

Net debt is 28% of Sensient Technologies's market cap. You'd want to be aware of this fact, but it doesn't bother us.

The Verdict On Sensient Technologies's P/E Ratio

Sensient Technologies has a P/E of 28.9. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 15.1. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it's fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

But note: Sensient Technologies 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).

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.