What Does Union Steel Holdings Limited’s (SGX:BLA) P/E Ratio Tell You?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Union Steel Holdings Limited’s (SGX:BLA) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Union Steel Holdings has a price to earnings ratio of 22.36, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying SGD22.36 for every SGD1 in prior year profit.

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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 Union Steel Holdings:

P/E of 22.36 = SGD0.47 ÷ SGD0.021 (Based on the year to September 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each SGD1 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. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others — and that may attract buyers.

Union Steel Holdings’s earnings per share fell by 49% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (3 years), earnings per share have increased by 83%. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 23% per year over the last five years. This might lead to muted expectations.

How Does Union Steel Holdings’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Union Steel Holdings has a higher P/E than the average (14.2) P/E for companies in the commercial services industry.

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Union Steel Holdings shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. 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.

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

The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Is Debt Impacting Union Steel Holdings’s P/E?

Union Steel Holdings’s net debt is 84% of its market cap. This is enough debt that you’d have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Bottom Line On Union Steel Holdings’s P/E Ratio

Union Steel Holdings’s P/E is 22.4 which is above average (11.9) in the SG market. With relatively high debt, and no earnings per share growth over twelve months, it’s safe to say the market believes the company will improve its earnings growth in the future.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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.’ Although we don’t have analyst forecasts, you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

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

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.