Should You Be Tempted To Sell BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) Limited (HKG:2388) Because Of Its PE Ratio?

This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to learn about the link between company’s fundamentals and stock market performance.

BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) Limited (HKG:2388) is trading with a trailing P/E of 14.6, which is higher than the industry average of 6.1. While this might not seem positive, it is important to understand the assumptions behind the P/E ratio before you make any investment decisions. In this article, I will explain what the P/E ratio is as well as what you should look out for when using it.

Demystifying the P/E ratio

The P/E ratio is one of many ratios used in relative valuation. It compares a stock’s price per share to the stock’s earnings per share. A more intuitive way of understanding the P/E ratio is to think of it as 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 2388

Price per share = HK\$39.25

Earnings per share = HK\$2.694

∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = HK\$39.25 ÷ HK\$2.694 = 14.6x

The P/E ratio itself doesn’t tell you a lot; however, it becomes very insightful when you compare it with other similar companies. Ideally, we want to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar characteristics as 2388, such as size and country of operation. One way of gathering a peer group is to use firms in the same industry, which is what I’ll do. 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.

2388’s P/E of 14.6 is higher than its industry peers (6.1), which implies that each dollar of 2388’s earnings is being overvalued by investors. This multiple is a median of profitable companies of 25 Banks companies in HK including Shengjing Bank, Harbin Bank and Bank of Chongqing. You could also say that the market is suggesting that 2388 has a stronger business than the average comparable company.

Assumptions to watch out for

However, you should be aware that this analysis makes certain assumptions. The first is that our “similar companies” are actually similar to 2388. If not, the difference in P/E might be a result of other factors. Take, for example, the scenario where BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) Limited is growing profits more quickly than the average comparable company. In that case, the market may be correct to value it on a higher P/E ratio. We should also be aware that the stocks we are comparing to 2388 may not be fairly valued. Just because it is trading on a higher P/E ratio than its peers does not mean it must be overvalued. After all, the peer group could be undervalued.

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 rebalance your portfolio and reduce your holdings in 2388. 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 2388’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for 2388’s outlook.
2. Past Track Record: Has 2388 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 2388’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.