Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Hang Lung Group (HKG:10) share price has dived 32% in the last thirty days. Indeed the recent decline has arguably caused some bitterness for shareholders who have held through the 42% drop over twelve months.
Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more attractive to potential buyers. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. 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). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.
How Does Hang Lung Group's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 2.84 that sentiment around Hang Lung Group isn't particularly high. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (6.2) for companies in the real estate industry is higher than Hang Lung Group's P/E.
Hang Lung Group's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same 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
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
Hang Lung Group increased earnings per share by a whopping 29% last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 3 years is 22%. With that performance, I would expect it to have an above average P/E ratio.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. 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 spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.
Hang Lung Group's Balance Sheet
Hang Lung Group has net debt worth a very significant 131% 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 Bottom Line On Hang Lung Group's P/E Ratio
Hang Lung Group's P/E is 2.8 which is below average (8.6) in the HK market. While the EPS growth last year was strong, the significant debt levels reduce the number of options available to management. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified. Given Hang Lung Group's P/E ratio has declined from 4.2 to 2.8 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 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. Although we don't have analyst forecasts you might want to assess this data-rich visualization of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
But note: Hang Lung Group 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 email@example.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.
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