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Is Village Super Market, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:VLGE.A) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

Simply Wall St

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 Village Super Market, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:VLGE.A), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is Village Super Market's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 15.19. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $15.19 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for Village Super Market

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Village Super Market:

P/E of 15.19 = USD23.00 ÷ USD1.51 (Based on the year to October 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. 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.

Does Village Super Market Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (22.9) for companies in the consumer retailing industry is higher than Village Super Market's P/E.

NasdaqGS:VLGE.A Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 21st 2020

This suggests that market participants think Village Super Market will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Village Super Market, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

Village Super Market's earnings per share fell by 23% in the last twelve months. But EPS is up 6.0% over the last 5 years. And EPS is down 4.5% a year, over the last 3 years. This growth rate might warrant a low P/E ratio.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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.

So What Does Village Super Market's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Village Super Market has net cash of US$71m. This is fairly high at 21% 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 Verdict On Village Super Market's P/E Ratio

Village Super Market trades on a P/E ratio of 15.2, which is below the US market average of 19.0. The recent drop in earnings per share would make investors cautious, the relatively strong balance sheet will allow the company time to invest in growth. If it achieves that, then there's real potential that the low P/E could eventually indicate undervaluation.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. We don't have analyst forecasts, but you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.