Does Graham Holdings Company’s (NYSE:GHC) P/E Ratio Signal A Buying Opportunity?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how Graham Holdings Company’s (NYSE:GHC) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. What is Graham Holdings’s P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 14. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 7.1%.

View our latest analysis for Graham Holdings

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 Graham Holdings:

P/E of 14 = $707.66 ÷ $50.54 (Based on the year to December 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

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. If earnings are growing quickly, then the ‘E’ in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

Graham Holdings saw earnings per share decrease by 6.8% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 42% per year over the last five years.

Does Graham Holdings Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. If you look at the image below, you can see Graham Holdings has a lower P/E than the average (30.1) in the consumer services industry classification.

NYSE:GHC Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 22nd 2019
NYSE:GHC Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 22nd 2019

Graham Holdings’s P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. 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

Don’t forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. So it won’t reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its 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 Graham Holdings’s P/E?

Graham Holdings has net cash of US$290m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.

The Bottom Line On Graham Holdings’s P/E Ratio

Graham Holdings has a P/E of 14. That’s below the average in the US market, which is 18.2. The recent drop in earnings per share would almost certainly temper expectations, the healthy balance sheet means the company retains potential for future growth. If that occurs, the current low P/E could prove to be temporary.

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. We don’t have analyst forecasts, but shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

But note: Graham Holdings 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.