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Do You Like Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NASDAQ:WW) At This P/E Ratio?

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Today, we’ll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We’ll look at Weight Watchers International, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:WW) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Weight Watchers International has a P/E ratio of 5.47, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 18%.

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Weight Watchers International:

P/E of 5.47 = \$18.47 ÷ \$3.38 (Based on the year to December 2018.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. 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

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company’s P/E multiple. 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. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Weight Watchers International increased earnings per share by a whopping 33% last year. And earnings per share have improved by 82% 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 1.3% per year over the last five years.

Does Weight Watchers International Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. If you look at the image below, you can see Weight Watchers International has a lower P/E than the average (27.5) in the consumer services industry classification.

This suggests that market participants think Weight Watchers International will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Weight Watchers International, it’s quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, 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. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.

While growth expenditure doesn’t always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

Weight Watchers International’s Balance Sheet

Net debt totals a substantial 122% of Weight Watchers International’s market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you must keep in mind that these debt levels would usually warrant a relatively low P/E.

The Verdict On Weight Watchers International’s P/E Ratio

Weight Watchers International trades on a P/E ratio of 5.5, which is below the US market average of 18.3. The company has a meaningful amount of debt on the balance sheet, but that should not eclipse the solid earnings growth. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. 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 Weight Watchers International. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.