With a price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 23.7x Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) may be sending very bearish signals at the moment, given that almost half of all companies in the United States have P/E ratios under 14x and even P/E's lower than 8x are not unusual. Although, it's not wise to just take the P/E at face value as there may be an explanation why it's so lofty.
Recent earnings growth for Abbott Laboratories has been in line with the market. It might be that many expect the mediocre earnings performance to strengthen positively, which has kept the P/E from falling. You'd really hope so, otherwise you're paying a pretty hefty price for no particular reason.
Keen to find out how analysts think Abbott Laboratories' future stacks up against the industry? In that case, our free report is a great place to start.
Does Growth Match The High P/E?
Abbott Laboratories' P/E ratio would be typical for a company that's expected to deliver very strong growth, and importantly, perform much better than the market.
Retrospectively, the last year delivered a decent 10% gain to the company's bottom line. The latest three year period has also seen an excellent 143% overall rise in EPS, aided somewhat by its short-term performance. Accordingly, shareholders would have probably welcomed those medium-term rates of earnings growth.
Shifting to the future, estimates from the analysts covering the company suggest earnings growth is heading into negative territory, declining 1.6% per annum over the next three years. With the market predicted to deliver 9.0% growth per year, that's a disappointing outcome.
With this information, we find it concerning that Abbott Laboratories is trading at a P/E higher than the market. Apparently many investors in the company reject the analyst cohort's pessimism and aren't willing to let go of their stock at any price. Only the boldest would assume these prices are sustainable as these declining earnings are likely to weigh heavily on the share price eventually.
The Bottom Line On Abbott Laboratories' P/E
Using the price-to-earnings ratio alone to determine if you should sell your stock isn't sensible, however it can be a practical guide to the company's future prospects.
Our examination of Abbott Laboratories' analyst forecasts revealed that its outlook for shrinking earnings isn't impacting its high P/E anywhere near as much as we would have predicted. Right now we are increasingly uncomfortable with the high P/E as the predicted future earnings are highly unlikely to support such positive sentiment for long. Unless these conditions improve markedly, it's very challenging to accept these prices as being reasonable.
Plus, you should also learn about this 1 warning sign we've spotted with Abbott Laboratories.
Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Abbott Laboratories. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that sit on P/E's below 20x and have grown earnings strongly.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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