Does Luna Innovations Incorporated’s (NASDAQ:LUNA) PE Ratio Warrant A Sell?

This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to start learning about core concepts of fundamental analysis on practical examples from today’s market.

Luna Innovations Incorporated (NASDAQ:LUNA) is trading with a trailing P/E of 55.9, which is higher than the industry average of 27.1. While this might not seem positive, it is important to understand the assumptions behind the P/E ratio before you make any investment decisions. In this article, I will break down what the P/E ratio is, how to interpret it and what other factors to keep in mind.

See our latest analysis for Luna Innovations

What you need to know about the P/E ratio

NasdaqCM:LUNA PE PEG Gauge August 29th 18
NasdaqCM:LUNA PE PEG Gauge August 29th 18

The P/E ratio is one of many ratios used in relative valuation. It compares a stock’s price per share to the stock’s earnings per share. A more intuitive way of understanding the P/E ratio is to think of it as how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.

Formula

Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share

P/E Calculation for LUNA

Price per share = $3.57

Earnings per share = $0.0639

∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = $3.57 ÷ $0.0639 = 55.9x

The P/E ratio itself doesn’t tell you a lot; however, it becomes very insightful when you compare it with other similar companies. Ultimately, our goal is to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar attributes to LUNA, such as company lifetime and products sold. A common peer group is companies that exist in the same industry, which is what I use below. Since it is expected that similar companies have similar P/E ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different.

LUNA’s P/E of 55.9 is higher than its industry peers (27.1), which implies that each dollar of LUNA’s earnings is being overvalued by investors. This multiple is a median of profitable companies of 25 Electronic companies in US including ProPhotonix, Hosiden and Electro Scientific Industries. You could think of it like this: the market is pricing LUNA as if it is a stronger company than the average of its industry group.

A few caveats

However, you should be aware that this analysis makes certain assumptions. Firstly, that our peer group contains companies that are similar to LUNA. If this isn’t the case, the difference in P/E could be due to other factors. For example, if Luna Innovations Incorporated is growing faster than its peers, then it would deserve a higher P/E ratio. Of course, it is possible that the stocks we are comparing with LUNA are not fairly valued. Just because it is trading on a higher P/E ratio than its peers does not mean it must be overvalued. After all, the peer group could be undervalued.

NasdaqCM:LUNA Future Profit August 29th 18
NasdaqCM:LUNA Future Profit August 29th 18

What this means for you:

Since you may have already conducted your due diligence on LUNA, the overvaluation of the stock may mean it is a good time to reduce your current holdings. But at the end of the day, keep in mind that relative valuation relies heavily on critical assumptions I’ve outlined above. Remember that basing your investment decision off one metric alone is certainly not sufficient. There are many things I have not taken into account in this article and the PE ratio is very one-dimensional. If you have not done so already, I highly recommend you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:

  1. Financial Health: Are LUNA’s operations financially sustainable? Balance sheets can be hard to analyze, which is why we’ve done it for you. Check out our financial health checks here.
  2. Past Track Record: Has LUNA been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of LUNA’s historicals for more clarity.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

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.