Is Walmart Inc’s (NYSE:WMT) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Walmart Inc’s (NYSE:WMT) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Walmart has a P/E ratio of 58.6, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 1.7%.

See our latest analysis for Walmart

How Do You Calculate Walmart’s P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Walmart:

P/E of 58.6 = $102.94 ÷ $1.76 (Based on the trailing twelve months to July 2018.)

Is A High P/E 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

If earnings fall then in the future the ‘E’ will be lower. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others — and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Walmart’s earnings per share fell by 58% in the last twelve months. And over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have decreased 9.7% annually. This might lead to muted expectations.

How Does Walmart’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Walmart has a significantly higher P/E than the average (14.4) P/E for companies in the consumer retailing industry.

NYSE:WMT PE PEG Gauge November 15th 18
NYSE:WMT PE PEG Gauge November 15th 18

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Walmart shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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).

Walmart’s Balance Sheet

Net debt totals 13% of Walmart’s market cap. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.

The Verdict On Walmart’s P/E Ratio

Walmart trades on a P/E ratio of 58.6, which is multiples above the US market average of 17.9. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it’s fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market.

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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

But note: Walmart 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).

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.