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Is Shenandoah Telecommunications Company's (NASDAQ:SHEN) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Shenandoah Telecommunications Company's (NASDAQ:SHEN), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Shenandoah Telecommunications has a P/E ratio of 43.69. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 2.3%.

Check out our latest analysis for Shenandoah Telecommunications

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Shenandoah Telecommunications:

P/E of 43.69 = $41.09 ÷ $0.94 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

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.

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. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

Shenandoah Telecommunications's earnings per share fell by 30% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 8.8%.

Does Shenandoah Telecommunications Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. The image below shows that Shenandoah Telecommunications has a higher P/E than the average (28.2) P/E for companies in the wireless telecom industry.

NasdaqGS:SHEN Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 3rd 2019

That means that the market expects Shenandoah Telecommunications will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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.

Shenandoah Telecommunications's Balance Sheet

Shenandoah Telecommunications has net debt equal to 33% of its market cap. While that's enough to warrant consideration, it doesn't really concern us.

The Verdict On Shenandoah Telecommunications's P/E Ratio

Shenandoah Telecommunications has a P/E of 43.7. That's higher than the average in the US market, which is 18.1. 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.

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.

You might be able to find a better buy than Shenandoah Telecommunications. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.