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Is Ultralife Corporation's (NASDAQ:ULBI) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

Simply Wall St

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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 Ultralife Corporation's (NASDAQ:ULBI), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Ultralife has a P/E ratio of 5.5, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 18%.

Check out our latest analysis for Ultralife

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Ultralife:

P/E of 5.5 = $8.03 ÷ $1.46 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings 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

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. 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.

Ultralife's 180% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. Even better, EPS is up 106% per year over three years. So we'd absolutely expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

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

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see Ultralife has a lower P/E than the average (18) in the electrical industry classification.

NasdaqGM:ULBI Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 2nd 2019

This suggests that market participants think Ultralife will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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.

Is Debt Impacting Ultralife's P/E?

Ultralife has net cash of US$21m. This is fairly high at 17% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.

The Bottom Line On Ultralife's P/E Ratio

Ultralife trades on a P/E ratio of 5.5, which is below the US market average of 18.2. The net cash position gives plenty of options to the business, and the recent improvement in EPS is good to see. One might conclude that the market is a bit pessimistic, given the low P/E ratio.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. Although we don't have analyst forecasts, you might want to assess this data-rich visualization of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

But note: Ultralife 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.