Should You Be Tempted To Sell Hubbell Incorporated (NYSE:HUBB) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Hubbell Incorporated’s (NYSE:HUBB) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Hubbell has a P/E ratio of 18.43, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $18.43 for every $1 in prior year profit.

See our latest analysis for Hubbell

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Hubbell:

P/E of 18.43 = $121.17 ÷ $6.57 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. 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

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the ‘E’ increases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Hubbell increased earnings per share by a whopping 49% last year. And earnings per share have improved by 3.7% annually, over the last three years. With that performance, I would expect it to have an above average P/E ratio. But earnings per share are down 1.2% per year over the last five years.

How Does Hubbell’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 Hubbell has a higher P/E than the average (16.3) P/E for companies in the electrical industry.

NYSE:HUBB Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 20th 2019
NYSE:HUBB Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 20th 2019

Hubbell’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 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. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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).

Is Debt Impacting Hubbell’s P/E?

Hubbell has net debt worth 24% of its market capitalization. That’s enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you’re comparing it to companies without debt.

The Verdict On Hubbell’s P/E Ratio

Hubbell’s P/E is 18.4 which is about average (17.7) in the US market. Given it has reasonable debt levels, and grew earnings strongly last year, the P/E indicates the market has doubts this growth can be sustained. Given analysts are expecting further growth, one might have expected a higher P/E ratio. That may be worth further research.

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 report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

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.