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Should We Worry About A. O. Smith Corporation’s (NYSE:AOS) P/E Ratio?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at A. O. Smith Corporation’s (NYSE:AOS) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Based on the last twelve months, A. O. Smith’s P/E ratio is 21.6. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $21.6 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for A. O. Smith

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 A. O. Smith:

P/E of 21.6 = $42.97 ÷ $1.99 (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 isn’t necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the ‘E’ increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

A. O. Smith shrunk earnings per share by 3.4% last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 16%.

How Does A. O. Smith’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. As you can see below, A. O. Smith has a higher P/E than the average company (14.5) in the building industry.

NYSE:AOS PE PEG Gauge December 11th 18

A. O. Smith’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 delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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

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.

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.

A. O. Smith’s Balance Sheet

A. O. Smith has net cash of US$425m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.

The Bottom Line On A. O. Smith’s P/E Ratio

A. O. Smith trades on a P/E ratio of 21.6, which is above the US market average of 17.2. The recent drop in earnings per share might keep value investors away, but the healthy balance sheet means the company retains potential for future growth. If fails to eventuate, the current high P/E could prove to be temporary, as the share price falls.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. People often underestimate remarkable growth — so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.