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A Sliding Share Price Has Us Looking At Unicaja Banco, S.A.'s (BME:UNI) P/E Ratio

Simply Wall St

Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Unicaja Banco (BME:UNI) share price has dived 33% in the last thirty days. Indeed the recent decline has arguably caused some bitterness for shareholders who have held through the 44% drop over twelve months.

All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more 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). So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.

Check out our latest analysis for Unicaja Banco

Does Unicaja Banco Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can tell from its P/E ratio of 5.04 that sentiment around Unicaja Banco isn't particularly high. If you look at the image below, you can see Unicaja Banco has a lower P/E than the average (5.8) in the banks industry classification.

BME:UNI Price Estimation Relative to Market April 9th 2020

Unicaja Banco's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. You 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. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Most would be impressed by Unicaja Banco earnings growth of 14% in the last year. But earnings per share are down 27% per year over the last five years.

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. 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 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 Unicaja Banco's P/E?

Unicaja Banco has net debt worth a very significant 295% of its market capitalization. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you must keep in mind that these debt levels would usually warrant a relatively low P/E.

The Verdict On Unicaja Banco's P/E Ratio

Unicaja Banco trades on a P/E ratio of 5.0, which is below the ES market average of 13.9. The company has a meaningful amount of debt on the balance sheet, but that should not eclipse the solid earnings growth. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about Unicaja Banco over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 7.5 back then to 5.0 today. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for deep value investors this stock might justify some research.

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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Unicaja Banco. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.