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Why Black Knight, Inc.'s (NYSE:BKI) High P/E Ratio Isn't Necessarily A Bad Thing

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Black Knight, Inc.'s (NYSE:BKI) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Black Knight has a P/E ratio of 68.98. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 1.4%.

View our latest analysis for Black Knight

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Black Knight:

P/E of 68.98 = $64.85 ÷ $0.94 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

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 Black Knight Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Black Knight has a higher P/E than the average (31.9) P/E for companies in the it industry.

NYSE:BKI Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 11th 2020

Black Knight's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Black Knight's earnings per share fell by 49% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (3 years), earnings per share have increased by 12%.

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

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. 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.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

So What Does Black Knight's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Net debt totals 17% of Black Knight's market cap. 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 Black Knight's P/E Ratio

Black Knight's P/E is 69.0 which suggests the market is more focussed on the future opportunity rather than the current level of earnings. With some debt but no EPS growth last year, the market has high expectations of future profits.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. 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.

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.