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Getting In Cheap On Accenture plc (NYSE:ACN) Is Unlikely

Accenture plc's (NYSE:ACN) price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 24.1x might make it look like a strong sell right now compared to the market in the United States, where around half of the companies have P/E ratios below 13x and even P/E's below 7x are quite common. However, the P/E might be quite high for a reason and it requires further investigation to determine if it's justified.

Accenture certainly has been doing a good job lately as it's been growing earnings more than most other companies. It seems that many are expecting the strong earnings performance to persist, which has raised the P/E. If not, then existing shareholders might be a little nervous about the viability of the share price.

Check out our latest analysis for Accenture

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If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report on Accenture.

Is There Enough Growth For Accenture?

Accenture's P/E ratio would be typical for a company that's expected to deliver very strong growth, and importantly, perform much better than the market.

Taking a look back first, we see that the company grew earnings per share by an impressive 17% last year. Pleasingly, EPS has also lifted 45% in aggregate from three years ago, thanks to the last 12 months of growth. Therefore, it's fair to say the earnings growth recently has been superb for the company.

Turning to the outlook, the next three years should generate growth of 8.7% per year as estimated by the analysts watching the company. Meanwhile, the rest of the market is forecast to expand by 9.6% each year, which is not materially different.

In light of this, it's curious that Accenture's P/E sits above the majority of other companies. It seems most investors are ignoring the fairly average growth expectations and are willing to pay up for exposure to the stock. Although, additional gains will be difficult to achieve as this level of earnings growth is likely to weigh down the share price eventually.

The Bottom Line On Accenture's P/E

While the price-to-earnings ratio shouldn't be the defining factor in whether you buy a stock or not, it's quite a capable barometer of earnings expectations.

Our examination of Accenture's analyst forecasts revealed that its market-matching earnings outlook isn't impacting its high P/E as much as we would have predicted. When we see an average earnings outlook with market-like growth, we suspect the share price is at risk of declining, sending the high P/E lower. Unless these conditions improve, it's challenging to accept these prices as being reasonable.

Many other vital risk factors can be found on the company's balance sheet. Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis for Accenture with six simple checks on some of these key factors.

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 a strong growth track record, trading on a P/E below 20x.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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