Is First Commonwealth Financial Corporation’s (NYSE:FCF) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to First Commonwealth Financial Corporation’s (NYSE:FCF), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. First Commonwealth Financial has a P/E ratio of 12.25, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 8.2%.

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Check out our latest analysis for First Commonwealth Financial

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for First Commonwealth Financial:

P/E of 12.25 = $13.42 ÷ $1.1 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isn’t necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the ‘E’ in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

In the last year, First Commonwealth Financial grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 71% gain was both fast and well deserved. The cherry on top is that the five year growth rate was an impressive 19% per year. With that kind of growth rate we would generally expect a high P/E ratio.

How Does First Commonwealth Financial’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that First Commonwealth Financial has a P/E ratio that is roughly in line with the banks industry average (12.8).

NYSE:FCF Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 21st 2019
NYSE:FCF Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 21st 2019

That indicates that the market expects First Commonwealth Financial will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. So if First Commonwealth Financial actually outperforms its peers going forward, that should be a positive for the share price. Checking factors such as the tenure of the board and management could help you form your own view on if that will happen.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. 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 investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its 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).

First Commonwealth Financial’s Balance Sheet

First Commonwealth Financial has net debt worth 51% of its market capitalization. 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 First Commonwealth Financial’s P/E Ratio

First Commonwealth Financial has a P/E of 12.2. That’s below the average in the US market, which is 17.7. While the EPS growth last year was strong, the significant debt levels reduce the number of options available to management. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E 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 editorial-team@simplywallst.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.