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Should We Worry About Investar Holding Corporation's (NASDAQ:ISTR) 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 show how you can use Investar Holding Corporation's (NASDAQ:ISTR) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Investar Holding has a P/E ratio of 14.35. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 7.0%.

See our latest analysis for Investar Holding

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Investar Holding:

P/E of 14.35 = $24.43 ÷ $1.70 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. 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 Investar Holding 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 (12.6) for companies in the banks industry is lower than Investar Holding's P/E.

NasdaqGM:ISTR Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 4th 2019

That means that the market expects Investar Holding will outperform other companies in its industry. 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

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. 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.

It's nice to see that Investar Holding grew EPS by a stonking 30% in the last year. And earnings per share have improved by 18% annually, over the last five years. I'd therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.

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. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

Investar Holding's Balance Sheet

Investar Holding has net debt worth 75% of its market capitalization. This is enough debt that you'd have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Bottom Line On Investar Holding's P/E Ratio

Investar Holding's P/E is 14.3 which is below average (18.1) in the US market. While the EPS growth last year was strong, the significant debt levels reduce the number of options available to management. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

But note: Investar Holding may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.

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