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Should We Worry About The Hershey Company's (NYSE:HSY) P/E Ratio?

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 The Hershey Company's (NYSE:HSY) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. What is Hershey's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 26.91. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $26.91 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Hershey

How Do I Calculate Hershey's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Hershey:

P/E of 26.91 = $156.28 ÷ $5.81 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

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 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 Hershey Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, Hershey has a higher P/E than the average company (24.7) in the food industry.

NYSE:HSY Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 9th 2019

Hershey's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. 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

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. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Hershey increased earnings per share by an impressive 19% over the last twelve months. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 9.1%. So one might expect an above average P/E ratio.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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.

Is Debt Impacting Hershey's P/E?

Net debt totals 11% of Hershey's market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Bottom Line On Hershey's P/E Ratio

Hershey trades on a P/E ratio of 26.9, which is above its market average of 17.2. While the company does use modest debt, its recent earnings growth is very good. Therefore, it's not particularly surprising that it has a above average P/E ratio.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than Hershey. 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.