# Here’s How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand COFACE SA (EPA:COFA)

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how COFACE SA’s (EPA:COFA) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. COFACE has a P/E ratio of 12.51, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 8.0%.

See our latest analysis for COFACE

### 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 COFACE:

P/E of 12.51 = EUR12.13 ÷ EUR0.97 (Based on the year to December 2019.)

### Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

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

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that COFACE has a lower P/E than the average (18.1) P/E for companies in the insurance industry.

This suggests that market participants think COFACE will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with COFACE, it’s quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

### How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

COFACE increased earnings per share by an impressive 22% over the last twelve months. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 4.0% per year over the last five years. So one might expect an above average P/E ratio.

### A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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.

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).

### So What Does COFACE’s Balance Sheet Tell Us?

COFACE’s net debt is considerable, at 134% of its market cap. This is a relatively high level of debt, so the stock probably deserves a relatively low P/E ratio. Keep that in mind when comparing it to other companies.

### The Verdict On COFACE’s P/E Ratio

COFACE has a P/E of 12.5. That’s below the average in the FR market, which is 18.6. While the EPS growth last year was strong, the significant debt levels reduce the number of options available to management. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, ‘In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than COFACE. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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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