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Why COSCO SHIPPING Ports Limited's (HKG:1199) High P/E Ratio Isn't Necessarily A Bad Thing

Simply Wall St

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how COSCO SHIPPING Ports Limited's (HKG:1199) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. What is COSCO SHIPPING Ports's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 9.4. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying HK$9.4 for every HK$1 in prior year profit.

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Check out our latest analysis for COSCO SHIPPING Ports

How Do You Calculate COSCO SHIPPING Ports's P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share (in the reporting currency) ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for COSCO SHIPPING Ports:

P/E of 9.4 = $0.93 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, USD ) ÷ $0.099 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each HK$1 the company has earned over the last year. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

COSCO SHIPPING Ports saw earnings per share decrease by 45% last year.

Does COSCO SHIPPING Ports 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. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (8.8) for companies in the infrastructure industry is roughly the same as COSCO SHIPPING Ports's P/E.

SEHK:1199 Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 20th 2019

Its P/E ratio suggests that COSCO SHIPPING Ports shareholders think that in the future it will perform about the same as other companies in its industry classification. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. I inform my view byby checking management tenure and remuneration, among other things.

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

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

So What Does COSCO SHIPPING Ports's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

COSCO SHIPPING Ports's net debt is 90% of its market cap. This is a reasonably significant level of debt -- all else being equal you'd expect a much lower P/E than if it had net cash.

The Bottom Line On COSCO SHIPPING Ports's P/E Ratio

COSCO SHIPPING Ports's P/E is 9.4 which is below average (11.2) in the HK market. When you consider that the company has significant debt, and didn't grow EPS last year, it isn't surprising that the market has muted expectations.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.' So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

But note: COSCO SHIPPING Ports 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.