Is Cal-Maine Foods, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CALM) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Cal-Maine Foods, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CALM) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. What is Cal-Maine Foods’s P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 13.86. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $13.86 for every $1 in prior year profit.

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Check out our latest analysis for Cal-Maine Foods

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Cal-Maine Foods:

P/E of 13.86 = $41.74 ÷ $3.01 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company earnings. 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

If earnings fall then in the future the ‘E’ will be lower. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others — and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Cal-Maine Foods’s earnings made like a rocket, taking off 408% last year. On the other hand, the longer term performance is poor, with EPS down -14% per year over 3 years.

Does Cal-Maine Foods Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see Cal-Maine Foods has a lower P/E than the average (23.7) in the food industry classification.

NasdaqGS:CALM Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 22nd 2019
NasdaqGS:CALM Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 22nd 2019

Cal-Maine Foods’s P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. 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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. 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 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.

How Does Cal-Maine Foods’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Cal-Maine Foods has net cash of US$339m. This is fairly high at 17% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.

The Verdict On Cal-Maine Foods’s P/E Ratio

Cal-Maine Foods trades on a P/E ratio of 13.9, which is below the US market average of 17.7. It grew its EPS nicely over the last year, and the healthy balance sheet implies there is more potential for growth. The relatively low P/E ratio implies the market is pessimistic.

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.

You might be able to find a better buy than Cal-Maine Foods. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.