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Should We Worry About United Bankshares, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:UBSI) P/E Ratio?

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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use United Bankshares, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:UBSI) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. United Bankshares has a price to earnings ratio of 15.14, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 6.6%.

View our latest analysis for United Bankshares

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for United Bankshares:

P/E of 15.14 = $38.61 ÷ $2.55 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.

How Does United Bankshares's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that United Bankshares has a higher P/E than the average (13.0) P/E for companies in the banks industry.

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

That means that the market expects United Bankshares 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

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

It's nice to see that United Bankshares grew EPS by a stonking 27% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 6.6% per year over the last five years. So we'd generally expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. 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.

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.

United Bankshares's Balance Sheet

United Bankshares has net debt equal to 27% of its market cap. While it's worth keeping this in mind, it isn't a worry.

The Verdict On United Bankshares's P/E Ratio

United Bankshares trades on a P/E ratio of 15.1, which is below the US market average of 18.7. The EPS growth last year was strong, and debt levels are quite reasonable. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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 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.

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.