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Should You Be Tempted To Sell DLH Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ:DLHC) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

Matthew Smith

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how DLH Holdings Corp.’s (NASDAQ:DLHC) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, DLH Holdings’s P/E ratio is 32.81. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 3.0%.

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How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for DLH Holdings:

P/E of 32.81 = $5.07 ÷ $0.15 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isn’t necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

When earnings fall, the ‘E’ decreases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

DLH Holdings saw earnings per share decrease by 47% last year. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 3.1% per year over the last five years. This might lead to muted expectations.

How Does DLH Holdings’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (24.2) for companies in the professional services industry is lower than DLH Holdings’s P/E.

NasdaqCM:DLHC PE PEG Gauge January 20th 19

That means that the market expects DLH Holdings will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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

Don’t forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn’t take debt or cash into account. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future), by taking on debt (or spending its remaining cash).

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.

How Does DLH Holdings’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Net debt totals just 1.0% of DLH Holdings’s market cap. It would probably trade on a higher P/E ratio if it had a lot of cash, but I doubt it is having a big impact.

The Bottom Line On DLH Holdings’s P/E Ratio

DLH Holdings trades on a P/E ratio of 32.8, which is above the US market average of 17.1. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it’s fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market.

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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold they key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than DLH Holdings. 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).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.