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Why Do Investors Focus on the P/E Ratio of a Company?

Initially claimed by the renowned value investor Benjamin Graham (one of Warren Buffett’s mentors), few stock market metrics have seen such a dramatic swing in and out of favor as the P/E ratio. Price/earnings ratios are used to determine a potential investment’s relative attractiveness based on the price of its shares in relation to its earnings.

The trailing P/E ratio is calculated by dividing the current share price by the total earnings per share (EPS) over the preceding 12 months. Instead, the forward price to earnings ratio is calculated using the current share price divided by the predicted earnings per share forecast for some future period.

The resulting data can provide useful insight into an investment’s quality, though how clear a view they provide is still debatable. Let’s now see the importance of the P/E ratio and how the P/E ratio helps with funding and for startups. 

P/E Ratio for Startups

In startups, price/earnings (P/E) ratios are used to determine the relative attractiveness of an investment based on its market valuation. Whether or not a company’s P/E ratio is a reasonable valuation depends on how it compares to other firms in the same industry. Let’s learn more about PE ratios and how they work.

What is the P/E Ratio?

The P/E Ratio measures the correlation between a company’s stock price and its earnings per share (EPS). Using this ratio, investors can better picture a company’s market value. The price to earnings ratio is a measure of the present price of a stock in relation to the market’s expected future profits per share (or future earnings, as the case may be).

As an investor, you want to know how successful a firm currently is and how profitable it will be in the future. If the company does not grow and the existing level of earnings does not change, the P/E can be understood as the number of years it will take the company to pay back the money paid for each share.

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How Does the P/E Ratio Work?

The price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) is a widely used method for investors and analysts to measure a stock’s relative valuation. A P/E ratio is a useful tool for determining if a stock is over-or under-valued. Additionally, a company’s price-to-earnings ratio can be compared to those of other companies in the same industry or to the broader market, such as the S&P 500 Index.

Occasionally, analysts are interested in long-term valuation trends and look at the P/E 10 or P/E 30 ratios, which average the previous ten or thirty years of earnings, respectively. These measurements are frequently used to determine the overall value of a stock index, such as the S&P 500, because they can account for business cycle fluctuations.

The S&P 500’s P/E ratio has ranged from roughly 5x (in 1917) to over 120x (in 2009, right before the financial crisis). The S&P 500’s long-term average P/E is roughly 16x, implying that the index’s constituent firms collectively command a premium of 16 times their weighted average earnings.

Formula and Calculation Example of P/E Ratio

The following is the formula and calculation involved in this process.

P/E Ratio=   Earnings per share/Market value per share

Calculating a stock’s price-to-earnings ratio is as simple as dividing its current market value by its earnings per share (EPS).

If you type in a stock’s ticker symbol on any financial website, you’ll get the current stock price (P). However, this is a more concrete value that reflects what investors currently have to pay for the stock.

There are two primary types of EPS. “TTM” is a Wall Street term for a “twelve-month period.” Over the last year, this statistic has served as a measure of how well the company is doing. When a company releases its financial results, it may also include guidance for EPS. This is the most educated projection of the company’s future earnings. The trailing and projected P/E ratios are based on different versions of EPS.

A P/E Ratio Example

As a historical example, consider Walmart Inc. (WMTP/E )’s ratio as of Feb. 3, 2021, when the company’s shares ended at $139.55.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the corporation earned $4.75 per share in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2021. 

As a result, Walmart’s price-to-earnings ratio is $139.55 / $4.75 = 29.38.

Advantages and Disadvantages of P/E Ratio

The P/E ratio expresses the relationship between the stock price and earnings of a company. PE enables you to invest over the course of a market cycle. Know the pros and cons of the price to earnings ratio


  • Widely Used: The stock market and even financial equities like banks and insurance firms use the P/E ratio regularly.
  • The math is simple: The price-earnings ratio is a simple formula to figure out. You only need the stock price and the EPS to calculate the value of a company (earning per share).
  • Value of a share of stock: Show investors how much each dollar is worth in return for the stock. Using this data, they can identify undervalued stocks.
  • Make quick decisions: Although the price to earnings ratio examines a company’s worthiness, it can be utilized to make rapid judgments on whether to invest or not.
  • Benchmarking tool: The price to earnings ratio is a great benchmarking tool to determine if a stock is overvalued or undervalued. It also establishes what the company’s genuine expectations are.


  • There is no debt or financial structure: Price-earnings do not take debt/financial structure into account when calculating financial statements.
  • Accounting regulations: Disparate accounting policies make it difficult to compare PE between companies and countries. These policies encompass the methods of depreciation employed, amortization, and the tax system.
  • Subjective in nature: Because equities are volatile, it’s impossible to determine what price-earnings ratio we can sell at, making P/E subjective in nature.
  • Increased cost risk: While gearing up or share buybacks might enhance a company’s profitability, they can also result in a rise in the cost of risk associated with achieving those earnings.
  • Poor decisions: Pursuing the desired earnings may need making poor business judgments.

P/E Ratio for Investors

The P/E ratio assists investors in determining the market value of a firm in relation to its earnings. In a nutshell, the price-to-earnings ratio indicates how much the market is ready to pay for a stock now based on its historical or projected earnings. A greater understanding of what price to earnings ratio does for investors is mapped.

How Does P/E Ratio Help in Valuation?

The price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) is a popular metric used by investors and analysts to estimate the value of a business. Along with indicating if a company’s stock price is over or undervalued, the price to earnings ratio can be used to compare a firm’s valuation to that of its industry or to a benchmark such as the S&P 500 index.

The price to earnings ratio assists investors in determining the market value of a firm in relation to its earnings. In a nutshell, the price-to-earnings ratio indicates how much the market is ready to pay for a stock now based on its historical or projected earnings. A high P/E ratio may indicate that a stock’s price is excessive in relation to earnings and may be overvalued. On the other hand, a low price to earnings ratio may imply that the present stock price is undervalued in relation to earnings;

How Does the P/E Ratio Help Investors Make Investment Decisions?

A higher P/E ratio indicates that investors are willing to pay a higher share price today in anticipation of future growth. Businesses that grow at a faster rate than the norm often have higher price-to-earnings ratios, such as technology firms. Historically, the S&P 500’s average price-to-earnings ratio has ranged between 13 and 15.

For instance, a company with a current P/E ratio of 25, which is higher than the S&P average, trades at a price of 25 times earnings. The high multiple shows that investors anticipate the company to grow faster than the market as a whole. A high price-to-earnings ratio does not always indicate that a stock is overvalued. Any price-to-earnings ratio should be weighed against the price-to-earnings ratio for the company’s industry.

Investors use the P/E ratio to evaluate the market value of a stock and forecast future earnings growth. For instance, if earnings are predicted to improve, investors may anticipate the company increasing its dividends in response. Increased earnings and dividends often result in an increase in stock price.

How Do the PEG Ratio and Earning Yields Also Affect Investment Decisions?

The PEG ratio compares a company’s price-to-earnings ratio to its predicted growth rate, which is a key aspect in determining its worth. A company that is likely to grow its revenue, earnings, and cash flow rapidly is, on balance, more valuable than a company with limited growth potential. As a result, growth companies typically have higher P/E ratios than value companies. Investors are willing to pay a premium for growth potential: High near-term prices are not necessarily a concern when investors sense growth potential.

However, the question of how much an investor should be ready to pay for growth remains. A “growing at all costs” mentality can result in overpaying for even a good firm. The PEG ratio can assist investors in putting a value on a company’s growth rate. On the other hand, the Earnings yield enables investors to analyze and make investment decisions across a variety of asset classes, not only stocks. It enables investors to determine whether their shares are under-or over-valued based on the yield percentage in comparison to other companies in the same sector.

What Should be the Ideal P/E Ratio in a Company? 

Finally, there is no set definition of an ideal P/E ratio. However, many value investors prefer a lower price-to-earnings ratio. Again, these ratios are commonly employed in comparison; thus the good or bad depends on the comparison.

To give you an idea of the market average, many value investors use the price-to-earnings ratio range of 20 to 25. Like in golf, the lower the P/E ratio, the better the investment.

But this requires a value-oriented approach to the market. If you want to invest in larger, less volatile companies, you may be ready to pay a higher price-to-earnings ratio. What is a good price-to-earnings ratio depends on the industry in which the company operates. Some industries will have greater average P/E ratios than others. You may compare a company’s price-to-earnings ratio to the industry’s average to see if it’s high or low.

Key Consideration Investors Look for in P/E Ratio Analysis 

The resulting data from PE can provide useful insight into an investment’s quality, though how clear a view they provide is still debatable. So here are the key considerations investors look for in P/E ratio analysis.

  • Compare within a specific industry: What constitutes a good or bad price-to-earnings ratio depends on the company’s industry, as previously indicated. The average price-to-earnings ratio will be higher in some industries than in others. While software businesses had a price to earnings ratio of over 60 in January 2021, publicly traded broadcasting companies had an average trailing price to earnings ratio of under 12. 6 P/E ratios can be used as an indicator of a company’s profitability by comparing it to the average P/E of its industry’s other companies.
  • High P/E ratio at the time of economic boom: Be cautious of stocks with high P/E ratios during an economic boom. The phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” is absolutely true for stocks–even many poor ones. As a result, it is wise to be cautious of any higher price movement that is not justified by a rational, underlying explanation unrelated to the general economic condition.
  • Be equally suspicious of stocks with low P/E ratios: Many investors may argue that it is better to invest in companies with a lower P/E ratio since you will pay less for each dollar of earnings. In that sense, a lower price-to-earnings ratio equates to a cheaper price tag, which appeals to great value investors. In practice, however, it is important to understand why a company price to earnings ratio is what it is. For instance, if a company’s P/E is low as a result of a fundamental downturn in its business model, the apparent bargain may be an illusion.


While it is reasonable for investors to be suspicious of P/E ratios, keeping that concern in perspective is equally essential. While the price-to-earnings ratio is no longer the mystical forecasting tool that some once believed, it can still be beneficial when applied appropriately.

Take into consideration that you should examine P/E ratios within a single industry, and while an unusually high or low ratio does not necessarily indicate disaster, it is something to consider.

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