Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Steamships Trading Company Limited (ASX:SST) Still Undervalued?

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Steamships Trading Company Limited’s (ASX:SST) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Based on the last twelve months, Steamships Trading’s P/E ratio is 69.94. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 1.4%.

Check out our latest analysis for Steamships Trading

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price (in reporting currency) ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Steamships Trading:

P/E of 69.94 = A$30.89 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, PGK ) ÷ A$0.44 (Based on the year 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 A$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 Steamships Trading’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. As you can see below, Steamships Trading has a much higher P/E than the average company (13.2) in the industrials industry.

ASX:SST Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 7th 2019
ASX:SST Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 7th 2019

Steamships Trading’s P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

When earnings fall, the ‘E’ decreases, over time. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

In the last year, Steamships Trading grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 55% gain was both fast and well deserved. Regrettably, the longer term performance is poor, with EPS down 36% per year over 5 years.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet

Don’t forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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.

While growth expenditure doesn’t always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

Steamships Trading’s Balance Sheet

Steamships Trading’s net debt is 23% 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 Steamships Trading’s P/E Ratio

With a P/E ratio of 69.9, Steamships Trading is expected to grow earnings very strongly in the years to come. Its debt levels do not imperil its balance sheet and its EPS growth is very healthy indeed. So to be frank we are not surprised it has a high P/E ratio.

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. We don’t have analyst forecasts, but you might want to assess this data-rich visualization of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

You might be able to find a better buy than Steamships Trading. 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 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.

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