Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Abcam plc (LON:ABC) Still Undervalued?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll show how you can use Abcam plc’s (LON:ABC) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Abcam has a P/E ratio of 58.97. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying £58.97 for every £1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for Abcam

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 Abcam:

P/E of 58.97 = GBP12.95 ÷ GBP0.22 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each GBP1 the company has earned over the last year. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

How Does Abcam’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. As you can see below, Abcam has a higher P/E than the average company (39.4) in the biotechs industry.

AIM:ABC Price Estimation Relative to Market, February 20th 2020
AIM:ABC Price Estimation Relative to Market, February 20th 2020

That means that the market expects Abcam will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. If earnings are growing quickly, then the ‘E’ in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. 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.

Abcam saw earnings per share decrease by 28% last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 5.1%.

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

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. 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.

Abcam’s Balance Sheet

The extra options and safety that comes with Abcam’s UK£87m net cash position means that it deserves a higher P/E than it would if it had a lot of net debt.

The Verdict On Abcam’s P/E Ratio

Abcam’s P/E is 59.0 which suggests the market is more focussed on the future opportunity rather than the current level of earnings. The recent drop in earnings per share might keep value investors away, but the relatively strong balance sheet will allow the company time to invest in growth. Clearly, the high P/E indicates shareholders think it will!

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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 be able to find a better stock than Abcam. 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.