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Should We Worry About Illinois Tool Works Inc.’s (NYSE:ITW) P/E Ratio?

Asher Wright

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll show how you can use Illinois Tool Works Inc.’s (NYSE:ITW) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Illinois Tool Works has a price to earnings ratio of 22.43, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 4.5%.

View our latest analysis for Illinois Tool Works

How Do I Calculate Illinois Tool Works’s Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Illinois Tool Works:

P/E of 22.43 = $124.72 ÷ $5.56 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company 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

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others — and that may attract buyers.

Illinois Tool Works saw earnings per share decrease by 15% last year. But EPS is up 7.2% over the last 5 years.

How Does Illinois Tool Works’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, Illinois Tool Works has a higher P/E than the average company (18.1) in the machinery industry.

NYSE:ITW PE PEG Gauge January 1st 19

Illinois Tool Works’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 further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

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

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. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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).

Is Debt Impacting Illinois Tool Works’s P/E?

Illinois Tool Works’s net debt is 14% of its 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 Illinois Tool Works’s P/E Ratio

Illinois Tool Works trades on a P/E ratio of 22.4, which is above the US market average of 16. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it’s fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market.

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

You might be able to find a better buy than Illinois Tool Works. 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).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.