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Do You Know What Lithia Motors, Inc.’s (NYSE:LAD) P/E Ratio Means?

Saundra Reilly

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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll look at Lithia Motors, Inc.’s (NYSE:LAD) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company’s share price. Lithia Motors has a price to earnings ratio of 7.46, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $7.46 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Lithia Motors

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Lithia Motors:

P/E of 7.46 = $88.95 ÷ $11.93 (Based on the year to September 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. That isn’t a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business’s prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. 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.

Notably, Lithia Motors grew EPS by a whopping 45% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 20%. So we’d generally expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

How Does Lithia Motors’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Lithia Motors has a lower P/E than the average (15.6) P/E for companies in the specialty retail industry.

NYSE:LAD PE PEG Gauge February 2nd 19

This suggests that market participants think Lithia Motors 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.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet

Don’t forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Lithia Motors’s Balance Sheet

Net debt totals a substantial 155% of Lithia Motors’s market cap. This is a relatively high level of debt, so the stock probably deserves a relatively low P/E ratio. Keep that in mind when comparing it to other companies.

The Verdict On Lithia Motors’s P/E Ratio

Lithia Motors trades on a P/E ratio of 7.5, which is below the US market average of 16.7. The company may have significant debt, but EPS growth was good last year. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Lithia Motors. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.