Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Michael Hill International (ASX:MHJ) share price has dived 31% in the last thirty days. Indeed the recent decline has arguably caused some bitterness for shareholders who have held through the 42% drop over twelve months.
Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more attractive to potential buyers. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). The implication here is that long term investors have an opportunity when expectations of a company are too low. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.
How Does Michael Hill International's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 8.14 that sentiment around Michael Hill International isn't particularly high. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (10.4) for companies in the specialty retail industry is higher than Michael Hill International's P/E.
This suggests that market participants think Michael Hill International will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
When earnings fall, the 'E' decreases, over time. 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.
Michael Hill International increased earnings per share by 4.6% last year. But earnings per share are down 9.5% per year over the last five years.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.
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 Michael Hill International's P/E?
The extra options and safety that comes with Michael Hill International's AU$220k net cash position means that it deserves a higher P/E than it would if it had a lot of net debt.
The Bottom Line On Michael Hill International's P/E Ratio
Michael Hill International has a P/E of 8.1. That's below the average in the AU market, which is 14.7. Recent earnings growth wasn't bad. Also positive, the relatively strong balance sheet will allow for investment in growth. In contrast, the P/E indicates shareholders doubt that will happen! Given Michael Hill International's P/E ratio has declined from 11.8 to 8.1 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is more worried about the business today, than it was back then. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for deep value investors this stock might justify some research.
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 the key to an excellent investment decision.
But note: Michael Hill International 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).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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