Here's What Greggs plc's (LON:GRG) P/E Is Telling Us

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll show how you can use Greggs plc's (LON:GRG) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Greggs has a P/E ratio of 31.57. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying £31.57 for every £1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for Greggs

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Greggs:

P/E of 31.57 = GBP23.80 ÷ GBP0.75 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price'.

Does Greggs Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. As you can see below, Greggs has a higher P/E than the average company (27.7) in the hospitality industry.

LSE:GRG Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 22nd 2020

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Greggs 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 delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or 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. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

Greggs increased earnings per share by a whopping 25% last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 28%. I'd therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

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.

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).

Greggs's Balance Sheet

Greggs has net cash of UK£86m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.

The Verdict On Greggs's P/E Ratio

Greggs has a P/E of 31.6. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 18.4. With cash in the bank the company has plenty of growth options -- and it is already on the right track. Therefore it seems reasonable that the market would have relatively high expectations of the company

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

You might be able to find a better buy than Greggs. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.

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