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Is Whirlpool Corporation's (NYSE:WHR) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

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 show how you can use Whirlpool Corporation's (NYSE:WHR) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Whirlpool has a P/E ratio of 46.73. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $46.73 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Whirlpool

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 Whirlpool:

P/E of 46.73 = $138.56 ÷ $2.97 (Based on the year to March 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. 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.'

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Whirlpool saw earnings per share decrease by 26% last year. And EPS is down 20% a year, over the last 5 years. This might lead to muted expectations.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, Whirlpool has a much higher P/E than the average company (13.2) in the consumer durables industry.

NYSE:WHR Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 1st 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Whirlpool shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on 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.

Is Debt Impacting Whirlpool's P/E?

Whirlpool's net debt is 73% of its market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.

The Verdict On Whirlpool's P/E Ratio

Whirlpool's P/E is 46.7 which is above average (18.3) in the US market. With meaningful debt and a lack of recent earnings growth, the market has high expectations that the business will earn more in the future.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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.