What Does AstraZeneca PLC’s (LON:AZN) P/E Ratio Tell You?

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at AstraZeneca PLC’s (LON:AZN) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. AstraZeneca has a price to earnings ratio of 44.46, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 2.2%.

Check out our latest analysis for AstraZeneca

How Do I Calculate AstraZeneca’s Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for AstraZeneca:

P/E of 44.46 = $75.63 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, USD ) ÷ $1.7 (Based on the year to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each £1 of company earnings. 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

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.

AstraZeneca’s earnings per share fell by 28% in the last twelve months. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 3.6% annually. This could justify a pessimistic P/E.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that AstraZeneca has a higher P/E than the average (24) P/E for companies in the pharmaceuticals industry.

LSE:AZN Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 19th 2019
LSE:AZN Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 19th 2019

AstraZeneca’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 further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

Don’t Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. That means it doesn’t take debt or cash into account. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

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.

AstraZeneca’s Balance Sheet

AstraZeneca has net debt worth 13% of its market capitalization. That’s enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you’re comparing it to companies without debt.

The Verdict On AstraZeneca’s P/E Ratio

AstraZeneca’s P/E is 44.5 which is above average (16.3) in the GB market. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it’s fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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 find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E 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.