What Does Atrion Corporation's (NASDAQ:ATRI) P/E Ratio Tell You?

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Atrion Corporation's (NASDAQ:ATRI), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Based on the last twelve months, Atrion's P/E ratio is 46.44. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $46.44 for every $1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for Atrion

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Atrion:

P/E of 46.44 = $882.25 ÷ $19 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Atrion had pretty flat EPS growth in the last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 7.0% per year over the last five years.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (40.5) for companies in the medical equipment industry is lower than Atrion's P/E.

NasdaqGS:ATRI Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 12th 2019

That means that the market expects Atrion will outperform other companies in its industry. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors 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. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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).

Is Debt Impacting Atrion's P/E?

Since Atrion holds net cash of US$69m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.

The Verdict On Atrion's P/E Ratio

Atrion trades on a P/E ratio of 46.4, which is above the US market average of 17.6. EPS was up modestly better over the last twelve months. And the net cash position provides the company with multiple options. The high P/E suggests the market thinks further growth will come.

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.' Although we don't have analyst forecasts, shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

But note: Atrion may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.