To the annoyance of some shareholders, Silicom (NASDAQ:SILC) shares are down a considerable 34% in the last month. That drop has capped off a tough year for shareholders, with the share price down 39% in that time.
All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more attractive to potential investors. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. The implication here is that long term investors have an opportunity when expectations of a company are too low. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors’ expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
How Does Silicom’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 16.82 that sentiment around Silicom isn’t particularly high. The image below shows that Silicom has a lower P/E than the average (19.6) P/E for companies in the communications industry.
This suggests that market participants think Silicom will underperform other companies in its industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
If earnings fall then in the future the ‘E’ will be lower. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others — and that may encourage shareholders to sell.
Silicom shrunk earnings per share by 30% over the last year. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 7.7% annually. This might lead to muted expectations.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).
Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.
So What Does Silicom’s Balance Sheet Tell Us?
Silicom has net cash of US$44m. This is fairly high at 25% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.
The Bottom Line On Silicom’s P/E Ratio
Silicom has a P/E of 16.8. That’s higher than the average in its market, which is 12.7. The recent drop in earnings per share would make some investors cautious, but the healthy balance sheet means the company retains the potential for future growth. If this growth fails to materialise, the current high P/E could prove to be temporary, as the share price falls. Given Silicom’s P/E ratio has declined from 25.6 to 16.8 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is significantly less confident about the business today, than it was back then. For those who don’t like to trade against momentum, that could be a warning sign, but a contrarian investor might want to take a closer look.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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.
You might be able to find a better buy than Silicom. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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