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What Does Sonoco Products Company’s (NYSE:SON) P/E Ratio Tell You?

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Today, we’ll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. To keep it practical, we’ll show how Sonoco Products Company’s (NYSE:SON) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Sonoco Products has a P/E ratio of 20.68, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying \$20.68 for every \$1 in prior year profit.

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Sonoco Products:

P/E of 20.68 = \$64.39 ÷ \$3.11 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

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 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

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. Earnings growth means that in the future the ‘E’ will be higher. 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.

Sonoco Products’s 60% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. Having said that, the average EPS growth over the last three years wasn’t so good, coming in at 12%.

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

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Sonoco Products has a higher P/E than the average (17.5) P/E for companies in the packaging industry.

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Sonoco Products 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 always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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. 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).

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.

So What Does Sonoco Products’s Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Sonoco Products has net debt worth 20% of its market capitalization. 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 Sonoco Products’s P/E Ratio

Sonoco Products has a P/E of 20.7. That’s higher than the average in the US market, which is 17.7. The company is not overly constrained by its modest debt levels, and its recent EPS growth is nothing short of stand-out. So to be frank we are not surprised it has a high P/E ratio.

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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Sonoco Products. 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.