Should We Worry About Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Incorporated’s (NYSE:RBA) P/E Ratio?

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Incorporated’s (NYSE:RBA) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers has a P/E ratio of 29.72, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 3.4%.

View our latest analysis for Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers

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 Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers:

P/E of 29.72 = $33.41 ÷ $1.12 (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. That isn’t a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business’s prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

When earnings fall, the ‘E’ decreases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

Notably, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers grew EPS by a whopping 60% in the last year. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 1.4% a year, over 5 years.

How Does Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers’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, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers has a higher P/E than the average company (20.1) in the commercial services industry.

NYSE:RBA Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 27th 2019
NYSE:RBA Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 27th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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. 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).

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Is Debt Impacting Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers’s P/E?

Net debt totals 14% of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers’s market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Bottom Line On Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers’s P/E Ratio

Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers trades on a P/E ratio of 29.7, which is above the US market average of 17.3. Its debt levels do not imperil its balance sheet and it has already proven it can grow. So it is not surprising the market is probably extrapolating recent growth well into the future, reflected in the relatively high P/E ratio.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. People often underestimate remarkable growth — so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

But note: Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio 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.