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Should We Worry About BHP Group's (ASX:BHP) P/E Ratio?

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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 look at BHP Group's (ASX:BHP) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. BHP Group has a price to earnings ratio of 17.35, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 5.8%.

View our latest analysis for BHP Group

How Do I Calculate BHP Group's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for BHP Group:

P/E of 17.35 = $28.86 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, USD ) ÷ $1.66 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

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 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

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

BHP Group's earnings made like a rocket, taking off 77% last year. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 9.9% a year, over 5 years.

Does BHP Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that BHP Group has a higher P/E than the average (12) P/E for companies in the metals and mining industry.

ASX:BHP Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 1st 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that BHP Group shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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.

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.

BHP Group's Balance Sheet

BHP Group has net debt worth just 8.0% of its market capitalization. It would probably trade on a higher P/E ratio if it had a lot of cash, but I doubt it is having a big impact.

The Verdict On BHP Group's P/E Ratio

BHP Group trades on a P/E ratio of 17.4, which is above the AU market average of 15.9. While the company does use modest debt, its recent earnings growth is superb. So to be frank we are not surprised it has a high P/E ratio.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. 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.