Should We Worry About Kirby Corporation’s (NYSE:KEX) P/E Ratio?

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This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll show how you can use Kirby Corporation’s (NYSE:KEX) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Kirby has a price to earnings ratio of 56.29, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 1.8%.

See our latest analysis for Kirby

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 Kirby:

P/E of 56.29 = $84.9 ÷ $1.51 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

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 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.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the ‘E’ in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others — and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Kirby’s earnings per share fell by 73% in the last twelve months. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 20% per year over the last five years. This might lead to muted expectations.

Does Kirby Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Kirby has a significantly higher P/E than the average (18.4) P/E for companies in the shipping industry.

NYSE:KEX Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 6th 2019
NYSE:KEX Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 6th 2019

That means that the market expects Kirby will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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

The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Kirby’s Balance Sheet

Kirby has net debt equal to 28% of its market cap. While that’s enough to warrant consideration, it doesn’t really concern us.

The Verdict On Kirby’s P/E Ratio

Kirby’s P/E is 56.3 which suggests the market is more focussed on the future opportunity rather than the current level of earnings. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it’s safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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 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. Thank you for reading.