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Should You Be Tempted To Sell Investar Holding Corporation (NASDAQ:ISTR) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

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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 Investar Holding Corporation's (NASDAQ:ISTR) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Investar Holding has a P/E ratio of 15.27, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $15.27 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Investar Holding

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 Investar Holding:

P/E of 15.27 = $23.79 ÷ $1.56 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings 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

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

Investar Holding's 63% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. And earnings per share have improved by 16% annually, over the last three years. So we'd absolutely expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

Does Investar Holding Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (13) for companies in the banks industry is lower than Investar Holding's P/E.

NasdaqGM:ISTR Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 10th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Investar Holding shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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).

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.

Investar Holding's Balance Sheet

Investar Holding has net debt worth 58% of its market capitalization. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.

The Bottom Line On Investar Holding's P/E Ratio

Investar Holding trades on a P/E ratio of 15.3, which is below the US market average of 18.1. The company has a meaningful amount of debt on the balance sheet, but that should not eclipse the solid earnings growth. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

You might be able to find a better buy than Investar Holding. 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).

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 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. Thank you for reading.