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Is Eni S.p.A.'s (BIT:ENI) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Eni S.p.A.'s (BIT:ENI), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is Eni's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 20.44. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying â‚¬20.44 for every â‚¬1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for Eni

How Do I Calculate Eni's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share Ã· Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Eni:

P/E of 20.44 = â‚¬13.85 Ã· â‚¬0.68 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each â‚¬1 the company has earned over the last year. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

How Does Eni's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (10.2) for companies in the oil and gas industry is lower than Eni's P/E.

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Eni shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Eni saw earnings per share decrease by 58% last year. And EPS is down 4.2% a year, over the last 5 years. This might lead to muted expectations.

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

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

Is Debt Impacting Eni's P/E?

Eni has net debt equal to 26% of its market cap. While it's worth keeping this in mind, it isn't a worry.

The Bottom Line On Eni's P/E Ratio

Eni trades on a P/E ratio of 20.4, which is above its market average of 18.6. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it's safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years.

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.

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 modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.