Is BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings, Inc.’s (NYSE:BJ) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

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 BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings, Inc.’s (NYSE:BJ) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings’s P/E ratio is 18.12. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $18.12 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings:

P/E of 18.12 = $22.74 ÷ $1.26 (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2018.)

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 is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about 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 even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

It’s nice to see that BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings grew EPS by a stonking 121% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 3 years is 43%. With that performance, I would expect it to have an above average P/E ratio.

How Does BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (12.7) for companies in the consumer retailing industry is lower than BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings’s P/E.

NYSE:BJ PE PEG Gauge January 7th 19
NYSE:BJ PE PEG Gauge January 7th 19

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

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

The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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.

Is Debt Impacting BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings’s P/E?

Net debt totals 61% of BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings’s market cap. 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 BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings’s P/E Ratio

BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings’s P/E is 18.1 which is above average (16.4) in the US market. It has already proven it can grow earnings, but the debt levels mean it faces some risks. But if growth falters, the relatively high P/E ratio may prove to be unjustified.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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 BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.