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Should You Be Tempted To Sell Systemax Inc. (NYSE:SYX) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

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The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Systemax Inc.'s (NYSE:SYX) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, Systemax's P/E ratio is 17.36. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 5.8%.

See our latest analysis for Systemax

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Systemax:

P/E of 17.36 = $23.1 ÷ $1.33 (Based on the trailing twelve months 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 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.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Systemax saw earnings per share decrease by 25% last year. But EPS is up 68% over the last 5 years.

How Does Systemax's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. As you can see below, Systemax has a higher P/E than the average company (13.9) in the trade distributors industry.

NYSE:SYX Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 2nd 2019

Systemax's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. 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

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).

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.

Is Debt Impacting Systemax's P/E?

Since Systemax holds net cash of US$295m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.

The Verdict On Systemax's P/E Ratio

Systemax trades on a P/E ratio of 17.4, which is fairly close to the US market average of 17.8. While the absence of growth in the last year is probably causing a degree of pessimism, the healthy balance sheet means the company retains potential for future growth. So it's not surprising to see it trade on a P/E roughly in line with the market.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. 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.

But note: Systemax may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio 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.