Should We Worry About Cal-Maine Foods, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CALM) P/E Ratio?

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Cal-Maine Foods, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CALM) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Cal-Maine Foods has a P/E ratio of 37.55, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 2.7%.

Check out our latest analysis for Cal-Maine Foods

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 Cal-Maine Foods:

P/E of 37.55 = $42.01 ÷ $1.12 (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 isn’t a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business’s prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

How Does Cal-Maine Foods’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, Cal-Maine Foods has a higher P/E than the average company (26.8) in the food industry.

NasdaqGS:CALM Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 21st 2019
NasdaqGS:CALM Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 21st 2019

Cal-Maine Foods’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

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.

Cal-Maine Foods’s earnings per share fell by 57% in the last twelve months. And EPS is down 13% a year, over the last 5 years. This could justify a pessimistic P/E.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. That means it doesn’t take debt or cash into account. 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 expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Cal-Maine Foods’s Balance Sheet

Cal-Maine Foods has net cash of US$317m. This is fairly high at 16% 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 Cal-Maine Foods’s P/E Ratio

Cal-Maine Foods trades on a P/E ratio of 37.5, which is above its market average of 17.3. The recent drop in earnings per share would make some investors cautious, 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!

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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Cal-Maine Foods. 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 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.