Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Portland General Electric Company (NYSE:POR) Still Undervalued?

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 Portland General Electric Company’s (NYSE:POR) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Portland General Electric has a price to earnings ratio of 19.5, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 5.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for Portland General Electric

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Portland General Electric:

P/E of 19.5 = $44.82 ÷ $2.3 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 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. All else being equal, it’s better to pay a low price — but as Warren Buffett said, ‘It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.’

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. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Portland General Electric’s earnings per share were pretty steady over the last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 6.0% per year over the last five years.

How Does Portland General Electric’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Portland General Electric has a P/E ratio that is roughly in line with the electric utilities industry average (19.3).

NYSE:POR PE PEG Gauge January 6th 19
NYSE:POR PE PEG Gauge January 6th 19

Portland General Electric’s P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. So if Portland General Electric actually outperforms its peers going forward, that should be a positive for the share price. I inform my view byby checking management tenure and remuneration, among other things.

Don’t Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

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. 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).

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.

How Does Portland General Electric’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Portland General Electric’s net debt is 56% of its market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.

The Verdict On Portland General Electric’s P/E Ratio

Portland General Electric has a P/E of 19.5. That’s higher than the average in the US market, which is 16.4. With meaningful debt and a lack of recent earnings growth, the market has high expectations that the business will earn more in the future.

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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

But note: Portland General Electric 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 editorial-team@simplywallst.com.