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Should We Worry About Cullen/Frost Bankers, Inc.'s (NYSE:CFR) P/E Ratio?

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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 Cullen/Frost Bankers, Inc.'s (NYSE:CFR), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Cullen/Frost Bankers has a P/E ratio of 13.37. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $13.37 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for Cullen/Frost Bankers

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Cullen/Frost Bankers:

P/E of 13.37 = $94.98 ÷ $7.11 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. 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.

Does Cullen/Frost Bankers Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (12.7) for companies in the banks industry is roughly the same as Cullen/Frost Bankers's P/E.

NYSE:CFR Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 10th 2019
NYSE:CFR Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 10th 2019

That indicates that the market expects Cullen/Frost Bankers 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. Further research into factors such as insider buying and selling, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.

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. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

Cullen/Frost Bankers's earnings per share grew by -6.4% in the last twelve months. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 11%.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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 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.

So What Does Cullen/Frost Bankers's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

With net cash of US$1.5b, Cullen/Frost Bankers has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 25% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Bottom Line On Cullen/Frost Bankers's P/E Ratio

Cullen/Frost Bankers's P/E is 13.4 which is below average (18.5) in the US market. EPS was up modestly better over the last twelve months. And the net cash position gives the company many options. So it's strange that the low P/E indicates low expectations.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than Cullen/Frost Bankers. 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).

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.