Should We Worry About Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) P/E Ratio?

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Johnson & Johnson has a price to earnings ratio of 20.98, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $20.98 for every $1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for Johnson & Johnson

How Do I Calculate Johnson & Johnson’s Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Johnson & Johnson:

P/E of 20.98 = $119.890 ÷ $5.716 (Based on the year to December 2019.)

(Note: the above calculation results may not be precise due to rounding.)

Is A High P/E 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 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.

Does Johnson & Johnson 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. The image below shows that Johnson & Johnson has a higher P/E than the average (18.8) P/E for companies in the pharmaceuticals industry.

NYSE:JNJ Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 23rd 2020
NYSE:JNJ Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 23rd 2020

Johnson & Johnson’s P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the ‘E’ will be lower. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

Johnson & Johnson maintained roughly steady earnings over the last twelve months. And over the longer term (3 years) earnings per share have decreased 1.8% annually. So it would be surprising to see a high P/E.

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. 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.

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

Is Debt Impacting Johnson & Johnson’s P/E?

Johnson & Johnson has net debt worth just 2.4% of its market capitalization. The market might award it a higher P/E ratio if it had net cash, but its unlikely this low level of net borrowing is having a big impact on the P/E multiple.

The Verdict On Johnson & Johnson’s P/E Ratio

Johnson & Johnson trades on a P/E ratio of 21.0, which is above its market average of 11.8. With modest debt relative to its size, and modest earnings growth, the market is likely expecting sustained long-term growth, if not a near-term improvement.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than Johnson & Johnson. 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).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.