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Does First Bank's (NASDAQ:FRBA) P/E Ratio Signal A Buying Opportunity?

Simply Wall St

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The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at First Bank's (NASDAQ:FRBA) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. First Bank has a P/E ratio of 11.92, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $11.92 for every $1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for First Bank

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 First Bank:

P/E of 11.92 = $11.51 ÷ $0.97 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company 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.'

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. 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.

First Bank increased earnings per share by a whopping 96% last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 8.6% per year over the last five years. So we'd generally expect it to have a relatively high P/E ratio.

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

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (13) for companies in the banks industry is higher than First Bank's P/E.

NasdaqGM:FRBA Price Estimation Relative to Market, April 3rd 2019

This suggests that market participants think First Bank will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

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

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.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

Is Debt Impacting First Bank's P/E?

First Bank's net debt is 25% of its market cap. This is enough debt that you'd have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Verdict On First Bank's P/E Ratio

First Bank has a P/E of 11.9. That's below the average in the US market, which is 17.7. The EPS growth last year was strong, and debt levels are quite reasonable. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than First Bank. 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).

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.