This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how Hebei Construction Group Corporation Limited’s (HKG:1727) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, Hebei Construction Group’s P/E ratio is 6.52. That means that at current prices, buyers pay HK$6.52 for every HK$1 in trailing yearly profits.
How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?
The formula for P/E is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price (in reporting currency) ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for Hebei Construction Group:
P/E of 6.52 = CN¥4.63 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, CNY ) ÷ CN¥0.71 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)
Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?
A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each HK$1 of company 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.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.
Hebei Construction Group saw earnings per share decrease by 25% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 14% per year over the last five years.
How Does Hebei Construction Group’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (11.6) for companies in the construction industry is higher than Hebei Construction Group’s P/E.
Hebei Construction Group’s P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet
The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. 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 taking on debt (or spending its remaining cash).
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).
Hebei Construction Group’s Balance Sheet
Since Hebei Construction Group holds net cash of CN¥679m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.
The Verdict On Hebei Construction Group’s P/E Ratio
Hebei Construction Group’s P/E is 6.5 which is below average (10.8) in the HK market. The recent drop in earnings per share would make investors cautious, the healthy balance sheet means the company retains potential for future growth. If that occurs, the current low P/E could prove to be temporary.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
But note: Hebei Construction Group 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 email@example.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.