This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll show how you can use First Bancorp’s (NASDAQ:FBNC) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, First Bancorp’s P/E ratio is 11.22. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $11.22 for every $1 in prior year profit.
How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?
The formula for price to earnings is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for First Bancorp:
P/E of 11.22 = $34.80 ÷ $3.10 (Based on the year to June 2019.)
Is A High P/E Ratio Good?
A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.
Does First Bancorp Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that First Bancorp has a lower P/E than the average (12.4) P/E for companies in the banks industry.
Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that First Bancorp shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. When earnings grow, the ‘E’ increases, over time. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
Most would be impressed by First Bancorp earnings growth of 24% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 21%. So one might expect an above average P/E ratio.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet
The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. So it won’t reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).
Is Debt Impacting First Bancorp’s P/E?
Since First Bancorp holds net cash of US$38m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.
The Verdict On First Bancorp’s P/E Ratio
First Bancorp trades on a P/E ratio of 11.2, which is below the US market average of 17.3. The net cash position gives plenty of options to the business, and the recent improvement in EPS is good to see. The below average P/E ratio suggests that market participants don’t believe the strong growth will continue.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.
You might be able to find a better buy than First Bancorp. 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 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. Thank you for reading.