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Should You Be Tempted To Sell Umicore SA (EBR:UMI) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how Umicore SA's (EBR:UMI) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. What is Umicore's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 19.61. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 5.1%.

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share Ã· Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Umicore:

P/E of 19.61 = â‚¬25.98 Ã· â‚¬1.33 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings 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.'

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Umicore has a higher P/E than the average (13.7) P/E for companies in the chemicals industry.

That means that the market expects Umicore will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. 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.

It's nice to see that Umicore grew EPS by a stonking 35% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 10% per year over the last five years. So we'd generally expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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.

Umicore's Balance Sheet

Umicore has net debt worth 14% of its market capitalization. That's enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you're comparing it to companies without debt.

The Verdict On Umicore's P/E Ratio

Umicore's P/E is 19.6 which is above average (14.9) in its market. While the company does use modest debt, its recent earnings growth is superb. So on this analysis a high P/E ratio seems reasonable.

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.