Is First National Corporation's (NASDAQ:FXNC) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

Simply Wall St

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 First National Corporation's (NASDAQ:FXNC), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. First National has a P/E ratio of 10.41, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 9.6%.

Check out our latest analysis for First National

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for First National:

P/E of 10.41 = $21.3 ÷ $2.05 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. 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

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

First National's 57% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. Even better, EPS is up 87% per year over three years. So you might say it really deserves to have an above-average P/E ratio.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see First National has a lower P/E than the average (12.9) in the banks industry classification.

NasdaqCM:FXNC Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 20th 2019

First National's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

Is Debt Impacting First National's P/E?

Since First National holds net cash of US$8.4m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.

The Bottom Line On First National's P/E Ratio

First National's P/E is 10.4 which is below average (18.2) in the US market. The net cash position gives plenty of options to the business, and the recent improvement in EPS is good to see. The relatively low P/E ratio implies the market is pessimistic.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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. We don't have analyst forecasts, but shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

But note: First National 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.