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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 The Hackett Group, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:HCKT) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, Hackett Group’s P/E ratio is 16.46. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $16.46 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.
How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?
The formula for price to earnings is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for Hackett Group:
P/E of 16.46 = $18.89 ÷ $1.15 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)
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
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. Earnings growth means that in the future the ‘E’ will be higher. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
Notably, Hackett Group grew EPS by a whopping 37% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 29%. I’d therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.
How Does Hackett Group’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 Hackett Group has a lower P/E than the average (29.2) in the it industry classification.
This suggests that market participants think Hackett Group will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Hackett Group, it’s quite possible it could surprise on the upside. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet
The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. That means it doesn’t take debt or cash into account. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.
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 Hackett Group’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
Hackett Group has net cash of US$1.7m. 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 Hackett Group’s P/E Ratio
Hackett Group has a P/E of 16.5. That’s around the same as the average in the US market, which is 16.8. With a strong balance sheet combined with recent growth, the P/E implies the market is quite 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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold they key to an excellent investment decision.
But note: Hackett Group 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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.