Should You Be Tempted To Sell Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how Abbott Laboratories’s (NYSE:ABT) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. What is Abbott Laboratories’s P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 51.8. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $51.8 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

See our latest analysis for Abbott Laboratories

How Do I Calculate Abbott Laboratories’s Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Abbott Laboratories:

P/E of 51.8 = $84.22 ÷ $1.63 (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 Abbott Laboratories’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below, Abbott Laboratories has a higher P/E than the average company (40.6) in the medical equipment industry.

NYSE:ABT Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 29th 2019
NYSE:ABT Price Estimation Relative to Market, August 29th 2019

Abbott Laboratories’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. Earnings growth means that in the future the ‘E’ will be higher. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

In the last year, Abbott Laboratories grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 251% gain was both fast and well deserved. Having said that, the average EPS growth over the last three years wasn’t so good, coming in at 7.6%.

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. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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.

Abbott Laboratories’s Balance Sheet

Abbott Laboratories’s net debt is 11% of its market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Bottom Line On Abbott Laboratories’s P/E Ratio

With a P/E ratio of 51.8, Abbott Laboratories is expected to grow earnings very strongly in the years to come. The company is not overly constrained by its modest debt levels, and its recent EPS growth is nothing short of stand-out. So on this analysis a high P/E ratio seems reasonable.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. People often underestimate remarkable growth — so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.