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Should We Worry About US Physical Therapy Inc’s (NYSE:USPH) P/E Ratio?

I am writing today to help inform people who are new to the stock market and want to begin learning about how to value company based on its current earnings and what are the drawbacks of this method.

US Physical Therapy Inc (NYSE:USPH) is trading with a trailing P/E of 61.9, which is higher than the industry average of 20.7. Although some investors may see this as unappealing, it is important to understand the assumptions behind the P/E ratio before making judgments. In this article, I will deconstruct the P/E ratio and highlight what you need to be careful of when using the P/E ratio.

View our latest analysis for U.S. Physical Therapy

What you need to know about the P/E ratio

NYSE:USPH PE PEG Gauge October 26th 18

P/E is often used for relative valuation since earnings power is a chief driver of investment value. By comparing a stock’s price per share to its earnings per share, we are able to see how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.

P/E Calculation for USPH

Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share

USPH Price-Earnings Ratio = $106.92 ÷ $1.727 = 61.9x

The P/E ratio itself doesn’t tell you a lot; however, it becomes very insightful when you compare it with other similar companies. We want to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar characteristics as USPH, such as size and country of operation. One way of gathering a peer group is to use firms in the same industry, which is what I’ll do. USPH’s P/E of 61.9 is higher than its industry peers (20.7), which implies that each dollar of USPH’s earnings is being overvalued by investors. This multiple is a median of profitable companies of 25 Healthcare companies in US including Quantum Medical Transport, U.S. NeuroSurgical Holdings and JRSIS Health Care. You could also say that the market is suggesting that USPH is a stronger business than the average comparable company.

Assumptions to be aware of

Before you jump to conclusions it is important to realise that there are assumptions in this analysis. Firstly, that our peer group contains companies that are similar to USPH. If this isn’t the case, the difference in P/E could be due to other factors. Take, for example, the scenario where US Physical Therapy Inc is growing profits more quickly than the average comparable company. In that case, the market may be correct to value it on a higher P/E ratio. Of course, it is possible that the stocks we are comparing with USPH are not fairly valued. Just because it is trading on a higher P/E ratio than its peers does not mean it must be overvalued. After all, the peer group could be undervalued.

What this means for you:

You may have already conducted fundamental analysis on the stock as a shareholder, so its current overvaluation could signal a potential selling opportunity to reduce your exposure to USPH. Now that you understand the ins and outs of the PE metric, you should know to bear in mind its limitations before you make an investment decision. Remember that basing your investment decision off one metric alone is certainly not sufficient. There are many things I have not taken into account in this article and the PE ratio is very one-dimensional. If you have not done so already, I urge you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for USPH’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for USPH’s outlook.
  2. Past Track Record: Has USPH been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of USPH’s historicals for more clarity.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

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.