Here’s How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

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The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Based on the last twelve months, Apple’s P/E ratio is 13.94. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 7.2%.

See our latest analysis for Apple

How Do You Calculate Apple’s P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Apple:

P/E of 13.94 = $170.42 ÷ $12.23 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings 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 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. When earnings grow, the ‘E’ increases, over time. 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.

It’s nice to see that Apple grew EPS by a stonking 25% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 12% per year over the last five years. So we’d generally expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Apple has a lower P/E than the average (16.2) P/E for companies in the tech industry.

NASDAQGS:AAPL PE PEG Gauge February 18th 19
NASDAQGS:AAPL PE PEG Gauge February 18th 19

This suggests that market participants think Apple will underperform other companies in its industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future), by taking on debt (or spending its remaining cash).

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 Apple’s P/E?

Net debt totals just 3.5% of Apple’s market cap. It would probably trade on a higher P/E ratio if it had a lot of cash, but I doubt it is having a big impact.

The Verdict On Apple’s P/E Ratio

Apple has a P/E of 13.9. That’s below the average in the US market, which is 17.2. The EPS growth last year was strong, and debt levels are quite reasonable. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.

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 they key to an excellent investment decision.

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.

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. On rare occasion, data errors may occur. Thank you for reading.