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Why Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A.'s (BIT:ISP) High P/E Ratio Isn't Necessarily A Bad Thing

Simply Wall St

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A.'s (BIT:ISP) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Intesa Sanpaolo has a price to earnings ratio of 9.68, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 10.3%.

View our latest analysis for Intesa Sanpaolo

How Do I Calculate Intesa Sanpaolo's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Intesa Sanpaolo:

P/E of 9.68 = €2.34 ÷ €0.24 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each €1 of company 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.

Does Intesa Sanpaolo Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (8.9) for companies in the banks industry is lower than Intesa Sanpaolo's P/E.

BIT:ISP Price Estimation Relative to Market, November 18th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Intesa Sanpaolo shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. 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.

Intesa Sanpaolo saw earnings per share decrease by 4.9% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 22% per year over the last three 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. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

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.

How Does Intesa Sanpaolo's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Intesa Sanpaolo has net cash of €9.4b. This is fairly high at 23% 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 Intesa Sanpaolo's P/E Ratio

Intesa Sanpaolo has a P/E of 9.7. That's below the average in the IT market, which is 18.1. The recent drop in earnings per share would almost certainly temper expectations, 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 the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Intesa Sanpaolo. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.