Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is UOL Group Limited (SGX:U14) Still Undervalued?

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll show how you can use UOL Group Limited’s (SGX:U14) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. UOL Group has a price to earnings ratio of 13.03, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying SGD13.03 for every SGD1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for UOL Group

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for UOL Group:

P/E of 13.03 = SGD6.05 ÷ SGD0.46 (Based on the trailing twelve months 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 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

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. When earnings grow, the ‘E’ increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

UOL Group saw earnings per share decrease by 56% last year. But EPS is up 24% over the last 3 years. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 7.7% annually. This growth rate might warrant a below average P/E ratio.

How Does UOL Group’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (9.9) for companies in the real estate industry is lower than UOL Group’s P/E.

SGX:U14 PE PEG Gauge December 12th 18
SGX:U14 PE PEG Gauge December 12th 18

UOL Group’s P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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 UOL Group’s P/E?

UOL Group’s net debt is 77% of its market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.

The Verdict On UOL Group’s P/E Ratio

UOL Group’s P/E is 13 which is above average (11.8) in the SG market. With significant debt and no EPS growth last year, shareholders are betting on an improvement in earnings from the company.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold they key to an excellent investment decision.

But note: UOL 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).

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.