Why Navigant Consulting, Inc.’s (NYSE:NCI) High P/E Ratio Isn’t Necessarily A Bad Thing

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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Navigant Consulting, Inc.’s (NYSE:NCI) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Navigant Consulting has a P/E ratio of 47.48. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $47.48 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for Navigant Consulting

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Navigant Consulting:

P/E of 47.48 = $23.31 ÷ $0.49 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. 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 Navigant Consulting’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. The image below shows that Navigant Consulting has a higher P/E than the average (21.9) P/E for companies in the professional services industry.

NYSE:NCI Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 9th 2019
NYSE:NCI Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 9th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Navigant Consulting shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the ‘E’ in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others — and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Navigant Consulting saw earnings per share decrease by 22% last year. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 14% annually. This could justify a pessimistic P/E.

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.

How Does Navigant Consulting’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

With net cash of US$107m, Navigant Consulting has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 12% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Bottom Line On Navigant Consulting’s P/E Ratio

Navigant Consulting trades on a P/E ratio of 47.5, which is above its market average of 18.1. 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!

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. People often underestimate remarkable growth — so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. 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 Navigant Consulting. 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.