Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Union Bankshares (NASDAQ:UNB) share price has dived 31% in the last thirty days. That drop has capped off a tough year for shareholders, with the share price down 55% in that time.
All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more attractive to potential investors. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). The implication here is that long term investors have an opportunity when expectations of a company are too low. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.
How Does Union Bankshares’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
Union Bankshares’s P/E is 8.62. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (8.8) for companies in the banks industry is roughly the same as Union Bankshares’s P/E.
Its P/E ratio suggests that Union Bankshares shareholders think that in the future it will perform about the same as other companies in its industry classification. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. Further research into factors such as insider buying and selling, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.
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. If earnings are growing quickly, then the ‘E’ in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
In the last year, Union Bankshares grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 50% gain was both fast and well deserved. Having said that, if we look back three years, EPS growth has averaged a comparatively less impressive 7.7%.
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.
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.
Union Bankshares’s Balance Sheet
Since Union Bankshares holds net cash of US$8.7m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.
The Bottom Line On Union Bankshares’s P/E Ratio
Union Bankshares trades on a P/E ratio of 8.6, which is below the US market average of 13.0. Not only should the net cash position reduce risk, but the recent growth has been impressive. One might conclude that the market is a bit pessimistic, given the low P/E ratio. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about Union Bankshares over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 12.6 back then to 8.6 today. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for deep value investors this stock might justify some research.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. We don’t have analyst forecasts, but you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
You might be able to find a better buy than Union Bankshares. 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).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.