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Should We Worry About ICU Medical, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ICUI) 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). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to ICU Medical, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ICUI), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is ICU Medical's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 52.76. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $52.76 for every $1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for ICU Medical

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for ICU Medical:

P/E of 52.76 = $187.25 ÷ $3.55 (Based on the year 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. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.

How Does ICU Medical's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that ICU Medical has a higher P/E than the average (46.1) P/E for companies in the medical equipment industry.

NasdaqGS:ICUI Price Estimation Relative to Market, November 27th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that ICU Medical shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

ICU Medical shrunk earnings per share by 16% over the last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 11% per year over the last five years. And over the longer term (3 years) earnings per share have decreased 1.1% annually. This might lead to low expectations.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

So What Does ICU Medical's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

The extra options and safety that comes with ICU Medical's US$338m 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 ICU Medical's P/E Ratio

ICU Medical's P/E is 52.8 which is above average (18.4) in its market. The recent drop in earnings per share might keep value investors away, but the net cash position means the company has time to improve: and the high P/E suggests the market thinks it will.

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 be able to find a better stock than ICU Medical. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.