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Should You Be Tempted To Sell PriceSmart, Inc. (NASDAQ:PSMT) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to PriceSmart, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:PSMT), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Based on the last twelve months, PriceSmart's P/E ratio is 23.37. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 4.3%.

Check out our latest analysis for PriceSmart

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 PriceSmart:

P/E of 23.37 = $58.42 ÷ $2.5 (Based on the year to February 2019.)

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

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

PriceSmart maintained roughly steady earnings over the last twelve months. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 3.2% annually. So we might expect a relatively low P/E.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, PriceSmart has a higher P/E than the average company (21) in the consumer retailing industry.

NasdaqGS:PSMT Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 25th 2019

That means that the market expects PriceSmart will outperform other companies in its industry. 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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. 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 investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

PriceSmart's Balance Sheet

Since PriceSmart holds net cash of US$17m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.

The Bottom Line On PriceSmart's P/E Ratio

PriceSmart's P/E is 23.4 which is above average (18.3) in the US market. EPS was up modestly better over the last twelve months. And the healthy balance sheet means the company can sustain growth while the P/E suggests shareholders think it will.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. 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.

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.