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Should We Worry About O'Reilly Automotive, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ORLY) P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. To keep it practical, we'll show how O'Reilly Automotive, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ORLY) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, O'Reilly Automotive's P/E ratio is 25.15. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 4.0%.

See our latest analysis for O'Reilly Automotive

How Do I Calculate O'Reilly Automotive's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for O'Reilly Automotive:

P/E of 25.15 = $440.52 ÷ $17.52 (Based on the trailing twelve months 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 a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

How Does O'Reilly Automotive's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (16.5) for companies in the specialty retail industry is lower than O'Reilly Automotive's P/E.

NasdaqGS:ORLY Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 17th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that O'Reilly Automotive shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

O'Reilly Automotive increased earnings per share by 9.1% last year. And earnings per share have improved by 20% annually, over the last five years.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on 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.

O'Reilly Automotive's Balance Sheet

O'Reilly Automotive's net debt is 11% of its market cap. 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 Bottom Line On O'Reilly Automotive's P/E Ratio

O'Reilly Automotive trades on a P/E ratio of 25.1, which is above its market average of 18.7. Given the debt is only modest, and earnings are already moving in the right direction, it's not surprising that the market expects continued improvement.

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 the key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than O'Reilly Automotive. 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.