This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at ConocoPhillips’s (NYSE:COP) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, ConocoPhillips has a P/E ratio of 8.36. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 12%.
How Do You Calculate ConocoPhillips’s P/E Ratio?
The formula for P/E is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for ConocoPhillips:
P/E of 8.36 = $52.18 ÷ $6.24 (Based on the trailing twelve months 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 $1 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.
Does ConocoPhillips 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. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (8.7) for companies in the oil and gas industry is roughly the same as ConocoPhillips’s P/E.
Its P/E ratio suggests that ConocoPhillips shareholders think that in the future it will perform about the same as other companies in its industry classification.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. When earnings grow, the ‘E’ increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
ConocoPhillips’s earnings made like a rocket, taking off 64% last year.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. So it won’t reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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).
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.
ConocoPhillips’s Balance Sheet
ConocoPhillips’s net debt is 9.8% of its market cap. So it doesn’t have as many options as it would with net cash, but its debt would not have much of an impact on its P/E ratio.
The Verdict On ConocoPhillips’s P/E Ratio
ConocoPhillips’s P/E is 8.4 which is below average (17.3) in the US market. The company hasn’t stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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. 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.
Of course you might be able to find a better stock than ConocoPhillips. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.
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.