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Should We Worry About InvoCare Limited's (ASX:IVC) P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll show how you can use InvoCare Limited's (ASX:IVC) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, InvoCare has a P/E ratio of 22.58. That means that at current prices, buyers pay A$22.58 for every A$1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for InvoCare

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 InvoCare:

P/E of 22.58 = A$12.53 ÷ A$0.55 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

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

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. As you can see below, InvoCare has a higher P/E than the average company (18.8) in the consumer services industry.

ASX:IVC Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 4th 2019

InvoCare's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. 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

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.

InvoCare shrunk earnings per share by 21% over the last year. But EPS is up 4.7% over the last 5 years. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 1.8% per year over the last three years. This growth rate might warrant a low P/E ratio.

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

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. 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.

InvoCare's Balance Sheet

InvoCare has net debt worth 24% of its market capitalization. That's enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you're comparing it to companies without debt.

The Verdict On InvoCare's P/E Ratio

InvoCare trades on a P/E ratio of 22.6, which is above its market average of 18.3. With some debt but no EPS growth last year, the market has high expectations of future profits.

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 report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

But note: InvoCare 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.