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Is United Bankshares Inc’s (NASDAQ:UBSI) PE Ratio A Signal To Sell For Investors?

This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to start learning about core concepts of fundamental analysis on practical examples from today’s market.

United Bankshares Inc (NASDAQ:UBSI) is trading with a trailing P/E of 18.8, which is higher than the industry average of 17.8. While this might not seem positive, it is important to understand the assumptions behind the P/E ratio before you make any investment decisions. Today, I will explain what the P/E ratio is as well as what you should look out for when using it.

See our latest analysis for United Bankshares

Breaking down the Price-Earnings ratio

NasdaqGS:UBSI PE PEG Gauge October 2nd 18

P/E is often used for relative valuation since earnings power is a chief driver of investment value. By comparing a stock’s price per share to its earnings per share, we are able to see how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.

P/E Calculation for UBSI

Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share

UBSI Price-Earnings Ratio = $36.35 ÷ $1.93 = 18.8x

The P/E ratio isn’t a metric you view in isolation and only becomes useful when you compare it against other similar companies. We preferably want to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar features to UBSI, such as capital structure and profitability. A common peer group is companies that exist in the same industry, which is what I use. At 18.8, UBSI’s P/E is higher than its industry peers (17.8). This implies that investors are overvaluing each dollar of UBSI’s earnings. This multiple is a median of profitable companies of 25 Banks companies in US including Great Basin Financial, CIB Marine Bancshares and Citizens Commerce Bancshares. You could also say that the market is suggesting that UBSI is a stronger business than the average comparable company.

Assumptions to watch out for

However, you should be aware that this analysis makes certain assumptions. Firstly, that our peer group contains companies that are similar to UBSI. If this isn’t the case, the difference in P/E could be due to other factors. For example, United Bankshares Inc could be growing more quickly than the companies we’re comparing it with. In that case it would deserve a higher P/E ratio. We should also be aware that the stocks we are comparing to UBSI may not be fairly valued. Just because it is trading on a higher P/E ratio than its peers does not mean it must be overvalued. After all, the peer group could be undervalued.

What this means for you:

If your personal research into the stock confirms what the P/E ratio is telling you, it might be a good time to rebalance your portfolio and reduce your holdings in UBSI. But keep in mind that the usefulness of relative valuation depends on whether you are comfortable with making the assumptions I mentioned above. Remember that basing your investment decision off one metric alone is certainly not sufficient. There are many things I have not taken into account in this article and the PE ratio is very one-dimensional. If you have not done so already, I urge you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for UBSI’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for UBSI’s outlook.
  2. Past Track Record: Has UBSI been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of UBSI’s historicals for more clarity.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

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.