Is medical columbus AG’s (FRA:MCE) PE Ratio A Signal To Buy For Investors?

This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to begin learning about how to value company based on its current earnings and what are the drawbacks of this method.

medical columbus AG (FRA:MCE) trades on a trailing P/E of 29.2. This isn’t too far from the industry average (which is 29.9). While this makes MCE appear like a good stock to buy, you might change your mind after I explain the assumptions behind the P/E ratio. In this article, I will deconstruct the P/E ratio and highlight what you need to be careful of when using the P/E ratio.

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Breaking down the P/E ratio

DB:MCE PE PEG Gauge October 22nd 18
DB:MCE PE PEG Gauge October 22nd 18

P/E is a popular ratio used for relative valuation. By comparing a stock’s price per share to its earnings per share, we are able to see how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.

Formula

Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share

P/E Calculation for MCE

Price per share = €5.1

Earnings per share = €0.175

∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = €5.1 ÷ €0.175 = 29.2x

The P/E ratio isn’t a metric you view in isolation and only becomes useful when you compare it against other similar companies. We preferably want to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar features to MCE, such as capital structure and profitability. A common peer group is companies that exist in the same industry, which is what I use below. Since it is expected that similar companies have similar P/E ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different.

medical columbus AG (FRA:MCE) trades on a trailing P/E of 29.2. This isn’t too far from the industry average (which is 29.9). Since the Healthcare Services sector in DE is relatively small, I’ve included similar companies in the wider region in order to get a better idea of the multiple, which is a median of profitable companies of companies such as DocCheck, Nexus and CompuGroup Medical Societas Europaea. One could put it like this: the market is pricing MCE as if it is roughly average for its industry.

A few caveats

However, there are two important assumptions you should be aware of. The first is that our peer group actually contains companies that are similar to MCE. If this isn’t the case, the difference in P/E could be due to some other factors. For example, if you accidentally compared higher growth firms with MCE, then MCE’s P/E would naturally be lower since investors would reward its peers’ higher growth with a higher price. Alternatively, if you inadvertently compared less risky firms with MCE, MCE’s P/E would again be lower since investors would reward its peers’ lower risk with a higher price as well. The second assumption that must hold true is that the stocks we are comparing MCE to are fairly valued by the market. If this assumption does not hold true, MCE’s lower P/E ratio may be because firms in our peer group are being overvalued by the market.

DB:MCE Future Profit October 22nd 18
DB:MCE Future Profit October 22nd 18

What this means for you:

If your personal research into the stock confirms what the P/E ratio is telling you, it might be a good time to add more of MCE to your portfolio. But keep in mind that the usefulness of relative valuation depends on whether you are comfortable with making the assumptions I mentioned above. Remember that basing your investment decision off one metric alone is certainly not sufficient. There are many things I have not taken into account in this article and the PE ratio is very one-dimensional. If you have not done so already, I urge you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for MCE’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for MCE’s outlook.
  2. Past Track Record: Has MCE been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of MCE’s historicals for more clarity.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.