Is Mueller Water Products, Inc.’s (NYSE:MWA) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll show how you can use Mueller Water Products, Inc.’s (NYSE:MWA) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Mueller Water Products has a P/E ratio of 14.4, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $14.4 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 = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Mueller Water Products:

P/E of 14.4 = $9.61 ÷ $0.67 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 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. 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

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Notably, Mueller Water Products grew EPS by a whopping 97% in the last year. And earnings per share have improved by 22% annually, over the last five years. I’d therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.

How Does Mueller Water Products’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see Mueller Water Products has a lower P/E than the average (18.6) in the machinery industry classification.

NYSE:MWA PE PEG Gauge January 31st 19
NYSE:MWA PE PEG Gauge January 31st 19

Mueller Water Products’s P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.

Don’t Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

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.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

How Does Mueller Water Products’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Mueller Water Products’s net debt is 6.5% of its market cap. So it doesn’t have as many options as it would with net cash, but its debt would not have much of an impact on its P/E ratio.

The Verdict On Mueller Water Products’s P/E Ratio

Mueller Water Products has a P/E of 14.4. That’s below the average in the US market, which is 16.7. The company does have a little debt, and EPS growth was good last year. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. 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.

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.