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Why First United Corporation's (NASDAQ:FUNC) 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). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to First United Corporation's (NASDAQ:FUNC), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. First United has a price to earnings ratio of 13.61, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $13.61 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for First United

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for First United:

P/E of 13.61 = $24.23 ÷ $1.78 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. 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.

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

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. As you can see below First United has a P/E ratio that is fairly close for the average for the banks industry, which is 13.0.

NasdaqGS:FUNC Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 17th 2019
NasdaqGS:FUNC Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 17th 2019

That indicates that the market expects First United will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. Checking factors such as director buying and selling. could help you form your own view on if that will happen.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

In the last year, First United grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 79% gain was both fast and well deserved. The sweetener is that the annual five year growth rate of 35% is also impressive. So I'd be surprised if the P/E ratio was not above average. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 2.7% a year, over 3 years.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

First United's Balance Sheet

First United's net debt equates to 39% of its market capitalization. While that's enough to warrant consideration, it doesn't really concern us.

The Bottom Line On First United's P/E Ratio

First United trades on a P/E ratio of 13.6, which is below the US market average of 18.7. The company hasn't stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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. Although we don't have analyst forecasts 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 be able to find a better stock than First United. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.