To the annoyance of some shareholders, Peabody Energy (NYSE:BTU) shares are down a considerable 32% in the last month. Given the 81% drop over the last year, some shareholders might be worried that they have become bagholders. What is a bagholder? It is a shareholder who has suffered a bad loss, but continues to hold indefinitely, without questioning their reasons for holding, even as the losses grow greater.
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). So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors’ expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.
Does Peabody Energy Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 2.34 that sentiment around Peabody Energy isn’t particularly high. If you look at the image below, you can see Peabody Energy has a lower P/E than the average (8.1) in the oil and gas industry classification.
This suggests that market participants think Peabody Energy will underperform other companies in its industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company’s P/E multiple. If earnings are growing quickly, then the ‘E’ in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
Peabody Energy saw earnings per share decrease by 38% last year.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet
The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).
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 Peabody Energy’s P/E?
Net debt totals 85% of Peabody Energy’s 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 Bottom Line On Peabody Energy’s P/E Ratio
Peabody Energy’s P/E is 2.3 which is below average (18.0) in the US market. The P/E reflects market pessimism that probably arises from the lack of recent EPS growth, paired with significant leverage. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about Peabody Energy over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 3.5 back then to 2.3 today. For those who prefer invest in growth, this stock apparently offers limited promise, but the deep value investors may find the pessimism around this stock enticing.