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

Simply Wall St

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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 Medifast, Inc.'s (NYSE:MED) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Medifast has a price to earnings ratio of 25.42, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 3.9%.

View our latest analysis for Medifast

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Medifast:

P/E of 25.42 = $137.29 ÷ $5.4 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 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. 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 Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Medifast's 91% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. The cherry on top is that the five year growth rate was an impressive 22% per year. So I'd be surprised if the P/E ratio was not above average.

Does Medifast 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. The image below shows that Medifast has a higher P/E than the average (22.2) P/E for companies in the personal products industry.

NYSE:MED Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 15th 2019

That means that the market expects Medifast will outperform other companies in its industry. 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

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. 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).

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.

Is Debt Impacting Medifast's P/E?

The extra options and safety that comes with Medifast's US$120m net cash position means that it deserves a higher P/E than it would if it had a lot of net debt.

The Verdict On Medifast's P/E Ratio

Medifast has a P/E of 25.4. That's higher than the average in the US market, which is 17.7. The excess cash it carries is the gravy on top its fast EPS growth. So based on this analysis we'd expect Medifast to have a high P/E ratio.

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 report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

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.