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To the annoyance of some shareholders, Evans Bancorp (NYSEMKT:EVBN) shares are down a considerable 33% in the last month. Even longer term holders have taken a real hit with the stock declining 26% in the last year.
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). The implication here is that long term investors have an opportunity when expectations of a company are too low. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.
Does Evans Bancorp Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 7.57 that sentiment around Evans Bancorp isn't particularly high. If you look at the image below, you can see Evans Bancorp has a lower P/E than the average (9.0) in the banks industry classification.
This suggests that market participants think Evans Bancorp will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
Evans Bancorp's earnings per share grew by 2.3% in the last twelve months. And earnings per share have improved by 12% annually, over the last five years.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in 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.
How Does Evans Bancorp's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
Evans Bancorp has net cash of US$15m. This is fairly high at 12% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.
The Verdict On Evans Bancorp's P/E Ratio
Evans Bancorp trades on a P/E ratio of 7.6, which is below the US market average of 13.4. Recent earnings growth wasn't bad. And the healthy balance sheet means the company can sustain growth while the P/E suggests shareholders don't think it will. Given Evans Bancorp's P/E ratio has declined from 11.4 to 7.6 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is more worried about the business today, than it was back then. For those who prefer invest in growth, this stock apparently offers limited promise, but the deep value investors may find the pessimism around this stock enticing.
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 report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
But note: Evans Bancorp 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 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.
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