Here's How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand Columbus McKinnon Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCO)

Simply Wall St

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at Columbus McKinnon Corporation's (NASDAQ:CMCO) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Columbus McKinnon has a price to earnings ratio of 15.77, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $15.77 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Columbus McKinnon

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Columbus McKinnon:

P/E of 15.77 = $36.09 ÷ $2.29 (Based on the year to June 2019.)

Is A High P/E 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 necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (20.1) for companies in the machinery industry is higher than Columbus McKinnon's P/E.

NasdaqGS:CMCO Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 20th 2019

This suggests that market participants think Columbus McKinnon will underperform other companies in its industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Columbus McKinnon's 190% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. And earnings per share have improved by 34% annually, over the last three years. So you might say it really deserves to have an above-average P/E ratio.

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

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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.

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).

How Does Columbus McKinnon's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Columbus McKinnon's net debt equates to 30% of its market capitalization. You'd want to be aware of this fact, but it doesn't bother us.

The Verdict On Columbus McKinnon's P/E Ratio

Columbus McKinnon has a P/E of 15.8. That's below the average in the US market, which is 17.6. The EPS growth last year was strong, and debt levels are quite reasonable. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low. Since analysts are predicting growth will continue, one might expect to see a higher P/E so it may be worth looking closer.

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 Columbus McKinnon. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.