Here’s How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. (NYSE:MLM)

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 Martin Marietta Materials, Inc.’s (NYSE:MLM) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, Martin Marietta Materials’s P/E ratio is 15.11. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 6.6%.

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How Do I Calculate Martin Marietta Materials’s Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Martin Marietta Materials:

P/E of 15.11 = $180.28 ÷ $11.93 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 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 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. When earnings grow, the ‘E’ increases, over time. 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 Martin Marietta Materials grew EPS by a stonking 73% in the last year. And earnings per share have improved by 34% annually, over the last five years. So we’d generally expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

How Does Martin Marietta Materials’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see Martin Marietta Materials has a lower P/E than the average (17.4) in the basic materials industry classification.

NYSE:MLM PE PEG Gauge January 30th 19
NYSE:MLM PE PEG Gauge January 30th 19

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Martin Marietta Materials shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. 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

Don’t forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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.

Martin Marietta Materials’s Balance Sheet

Martin Marietta Materials has net debt worth 28% of its market capitalization. This is a reasonably significant level of debt — all else being equal you’d expect a much lower P/E than if it had net cash.

The Verdict On Martin Marietta Materials’s P/E Ratio

Martin Marietta Materials’s P/E is 15.1 which is below average (16.7) in the US market. The EPS growth last year was strong, and debt levels are quite reasonable. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

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 find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E 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.