This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Tantech Holdings Ltd's (NASDAQ:TANH) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. What is Tantech Holdings's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 23.38. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $23.38 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.
How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?
The formula for price to earnings is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for Tantech Holdings:
P/E of 23.38 = $1.54 ÷ $0.066 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)
Is A High P/E Ratio Good?
The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.'
How Does Tantech Holdings's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (20) for companies in the chemicals industry is lower than Tantech Holdings's P/E.
That means that the market expects Tantech Holdings will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
When earnings fall, the 'E' decreases, over time. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.
Tantech Holdings's earnings per share fell by 54% in the last twelve months. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 19% per year over the last five years. This might lead to muted expectations.
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. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).
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 Tantech Holdings's P/E?
Tantech Holdings's net debt is 14% of its market cap. That's enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you're comparing it to companies without debt.
The Verdict On Tantech Holdings's P/E Ratio
Tantech Holdings has a P/E of 23.4. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 18.2. With some debt but no EPS growth last year, the market has high expectations of future profits.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. We don't have analyst forecasts, but you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Tantech Holdings. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.
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 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. Thank you for reading.