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Why A.P. Eagers Limited's (ASX:APE) 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 A.P. Eagers Limited's (ASX:APE) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, A.P. Eagers's P/E ratio is 27.78. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 3.6%.

See our latest analysis for A.P. Eagers

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for A.P. Eagers:

P/E of 27.78 = A$13.21 ÷ A$0.48 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each A$1 of company earnings. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

How Does A.P. Eagers's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

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 A.P. Eagers has a higher P/E than the average (15.7) P/E for companies in the specialty retail industry.

ASX:APE Price Estimation Relative to Market, September 17th 2019

That means that the market expects A.P. Eagers 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.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

A.P. Eagers shrunk earnings per share by 7.3% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 5.2% per year over the last five years. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 1.2% per year over the last three years. This growth rate might warrant a low P/E ratio. So it would be surprising to see a high P/E.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

Is Debt Impacting A.P. Eagers's P/E?

A.P. Eagers has net debt equal to 26% of its market cap. You'd want to be aware of this fact, but it doesn't bother us.

The Verdict On A.P. Eagers's P/E Ratio

A.P. Eagers's P/E is 27.8 which is above average (18.2) in its market. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it's safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

You might be able to find a better buy than A.P. Eagers. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.