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Should You Be Tempted To Sell General Commercial & Industrial S.A. (ATH:GEBKA) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at General Commercial & Industrial S.A.'s (ATH:GEBKA) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Based on the last twelve months, General Commercial & Industrial's P/E ratio is 27.14. That means that at current prices, buyers pay €27.14 for every €1 in trailing yearly profits.

See our latest analysis for General Commercial & Industrial

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for General Commercial & Industrial:

P/E of 27.14 = EUR0.93 ÷ EUR0.03 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each EUR1 the company has earned over the last year. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

Does General Commercial & Industrial Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (15.6) for companies in the trade distributors industry is lower than General Commercial & Industrial's P/E.

ATSE:GEBKA Price Estimation Relative to Market, February 18th 2020

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that General Commercial & Industrial shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

General Commercial & Industrial's earnings per share fell by 10% in the last twelve months. But it has grown its earnings per share by 6.3% per year 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. 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.

So What Does General Commercial & Industrial's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Net debt totals 15% of General Commercial & Industrial's 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 Bottom Line On General Commercial & Industrial's P/E Ratio

General Commercial & Industrial's P/E is 27.1 which is above average (17.3) in its market. 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. 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 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 General Commercial & Industrial. 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.