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Should You Be Tempted To Sell Lifestyle Communities Limited (ASX:LIC) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Lifestyle Communities Limited's (ASX:LIC), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Lifestyle Communities has a P/E ratio of 17.28, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay A$17.28 for every A$1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Lifestyle Communities

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 Lifestyle Communities:

P/E of 17.28 = AUD9.10 ÷ AUD0.53 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

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 Lifestyle Communities's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Lifestyle Communities has a higher P/E than the average (14.8) P/E for companies in the real estate industry.

ASX:LIC Price Estimation Relative to Market, February 11th 2020

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Lifestyle Communities 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

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Lifestyle Communities's earnings per share grew by -4.5% in the last twelve months. And earnings per share have improved by 34% annually, over the last five years.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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.

How Does Lifestyle Communities's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Net debt totals 10% of Lifestyle Communities's market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Bottom Line On Lifestyle Communities's P/E Ratio

Lifestyle Communities has a P/E of 17.3. That's around the same as the average in the AU market, which is 18.7. When you consider the modest EPS growth last year (along with some debt), it seems the market thinks the growth is sustainable.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.