Is Lechwerke AG’s (FRA:LEC) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

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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 show how you can use Lechwerke AG’s (FRA:LEC) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, Lechwerke’s P/E ratio is 45.54. That means that at current prices, buyers pay €45.54 for every €1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Lechwerke

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Lechwerke:

P/E of 45.54 = €102 ÷ €2.24 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. 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 Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the ‘E’ will be lower. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others — and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Lechwerke saw earnings per share decrease by 22% last year. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 6.1% annually. This could justify a pessimistic P/E.

Does Lechwerke Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. As you can see below, Lechwerke has a much higher P/E than the average company (11.7) in the electric utilities industry.

DB:LEC Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 10th 2019
DB:LEC Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 10th 2019

That means that the market expects Lechwerke will outperform other companies in its industry. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn’t guarantee future growth. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. 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.

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

Is Debt Impacting Lechwerke’s P/E?

Lechwerke has net cash of €2.2m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.

The Verdict On Lechwerke’s P/E Ratio

Lechwerke has a P/E of 45.5. That’s higher than the average in the DE market, which is 20.5. The recent drop in earnings per share would make some investors cautious, but the healthy balance sheet means the company retains potential for future growth. If fails to eventuate, the current high P/E could prove to be temporary, as the share price falls.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. People often underestimate remarkable growth — so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. Although we don’t have analyst forecasts, shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

But note: Lechwerke may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio 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.