Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Griffon Corporation (NYSE:GFF) Still Undervalued?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how Griffon Corporation’s (NYSE:GFF) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, Griffon’s P/E ratio is 40.17. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $40.17 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Griffon

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 Griffon:

P/E of 40.17 = $18.92 ÷ $0.47 (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

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the ‘E’ in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

Griffon shrunk earnings per share by 42% over the last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 27% per year over the last five years. And EPS is down 2.7% a year, over the last 3 years. This growth rate might warrant a low P/E ratio.

How Does Griffon’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 (17.8) for companies in the building industry is lower than Griffon’s P/E.

NYSE:GFF Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 2nd 2019
NYSE:GFF Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 2nd 2019

Griffon’s P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn’t guarantee future growth. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. That means it doesn’t take debt or cash into account. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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 Griffon’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Griffon’s net debt is considerable, at 130% of its market cap. This level of debt justifies a relatively low P/E, so remain cognizant of the debt, if you’re comparing it to other stocks.

The Verdict On Griffon’s P/E Ratio

Griffon trades on a P/E ratio of 40.2, which is above the US market average of 17.8. With significant debt and no EPS growth last year, shareholders are betting on an improvement in earnings from the company.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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.’ So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

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

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.