What Does Community Bank System, Inc.’s (NYSE:CBU) P/E Ratio Tell You?

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 Community Bank System, Inc.’s (NYSE:CBU) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, Community Bank System’s P/E ratio is 18.43. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $18.43 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

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How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Community Bank System:

P/E of 18.43 = $60.45 ÷ $3.28 (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. All else being equal, it’s better to pay a low price — but as Warren Buffett said, ‘It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.’

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. Earnings growth means that in the future the ‘E’ will be higher. 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.

Community Bank System’s earnings per share grew by -6.7% in the last twelve months. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 12%.

How Does Community Bank System’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. As you can see below, Community Bank System has a higher P/E than the average company (13.5) in the banks industry.

NYSE:CBU PE PEG Gauge January 30th 19
NYSE:CBU PE PEG Gauge January 30th 19

That means that the market expects Community Bank System will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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).

How Does Community Bank System’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Community Bank System’s net debt is 6.5% of its market cap. It would probably trade on a higher P/E ratio if it had a lot of cash, but I doubt it is having a big impact.

The Bottom Line On Community Bank System’s P/E Ratio

Community Bank System’s P/E is 18.4 which is above average (16.7) in the US market. With modest debt relative to its size, and modest earnings growth, the market is likely expecting sustained long-term growth, if not a near-term improvement.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. People often underestimate remarkable growth — so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

You might be able to find a better buy than Community Bank System. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.