Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Ames National Corporation (NASDAQ:ATLO) Still Undervalued?

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 Ames National Corporation’s (NASDAQ:ATLO) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Ames National has a price to earnings ratio of 13.88, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $13.88 for every $1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for Ames National

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Ames National:

P/E of 13.88 = $26.2 ÷ $1.89 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. 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 Ames National’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that Ames National has a higher P/E than the average (12.2) P/E for companies in the banks industry.

NasdaqCM:ATLO Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 21st 2019
NasdaqCM:ATLO Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 21st 2019

Ames National’s P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward.

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. If earnings are growing quickly, then the ‘E’ in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

It’s great to see that Ames National grew EPS by 17% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 2.6%. So one might expect an above average P/E ratio.

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

The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in 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.

Is Debt Impacting Ames National’s P/E?

Ames National has net cash of US$56m. This is fairly high at 23% 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 Verdict On Ames National’s P/E Ratio

Ames National has a P/E of 13.9. That’s below the average in the US market, which is 17.3. The net cash position gives plenty of options to the business, and the recent improvement in EPS is good to see. The relatively low P/E ratio implies the market is pessimistic.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. We don’t have analyst forecasts, but shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

You might be able to find a better buy than Ames National. 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).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.