U.S. Markets closed

Should You Be Tempted To Sell Pentair plc (NYSE:PNR) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

Shawn Clark

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

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 Pentair plc’s (NYSE:PNR) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Pentair has a P/E ratio of 22.41, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 4.5%.

See our latest analysis for Pentair

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Pentair:

P/E of 22.41 = $41 ÷ $1.83 (Based on the year to December 2018.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. 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

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others — and that may attract buyers.

Pentair saw earnings per share decrease by 31% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 9.8% per year over the last three years. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 3.0% annually. This might lead to muted expectations.

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

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. As you can see below, Pentair has a higher P/E than the average company (18.4) in the machinery industry.

NYSE:PNR PE PEG Gauge February 4th 19

That means that the market expects Pentair will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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. 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).

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).

Pentair’s Balance Sheet

Pentair has net debt worth 10% of its market capitalization. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.

The Verdict On Pentair’s P/E Ratio

Pentair has a P/E of 22.4. That’s higher than the average in the US market, which is 16.7. 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 have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

You might be able to find a better buy than Pentair. 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.