Should We Worry About Compass Minerals International, Inc.’s (NYSE:CMP) P/E Ratio?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Compass Minerals International, Inc.’s (NYSE:CMP), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is Compass Minerals International’s P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 34.96. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $34.96 for every $1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for Compass Minerals International

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 Compass Minerals International:

P/E of 34.96 = $58.31 ÷ $1.67 (Based on the year to September 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. 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 Compass Minerals International’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, Compass Minerals International has a much higher P/E than the average company (11.4) in the metals and mining industry.

NYSE:CMP Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 13th 2020
NYSE:CMP Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 13th 2020

That means that the market expects Compass Minerals International will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. 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

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the ‘E’ in the equation. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

Compass Minerals International’s earnings made like a rocket, taking off 338% last year. Regrettably, the longer term performance is poor, with EPS down 22% per year over 5 years.

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. 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.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

So What Does Compass Minerals International’s Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Compass Minerals International’s net debt is 70% of its market cap. This is enough debt that you’d have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Bottom Line On Compass Minerals International’s P/E Ratio

Compass Minerals International trades on a P/E ratio of 35.0, which is above its market average of 18.7. Its meaningful level of debt should warrant a lower P/E ratio, but the fast EPS growth is a positive. So despite the debt it is, perhaps, not unreasonable to see a high P/E ratio.

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 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 Compass Minerals International. 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.