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Grocery Outlet Holding Corp.'s (NASDAQ:GO) 26% Share Price Surge Not Quite Adding Up

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Grocery Outlet Holding Corp. (NASDAQ:GO) shareholders would be excited to see that the share price has had a great month, posting a 26% gain and recovering from prior weakness. But not all shareholders will be feeling jubilant, since the share price is still down a very disappointing 22% in the last twelve months.

After such a large jump in price, given close to half the companies in the United States have price-to-earnings ratios (or "P/E's") below 17x, you may consider Grocery Outlet Holding as a stock to avoid entirely with its 34.8x P/E ratio. Nonetheless, we'd need to dig a little deeper to determine if there is a rational basis for the highly elevated P/E.

Grocery Outlet Holding could be doing better as its earnings have been going backwards lately while most other companies have been seeing positive earnings growth. One possibility is that the P/E is high because investors think this poor earnings performance will turn the corner. You'd really hope so, otherwise you're paying a pretty hefty price for no particular reason.

View our latest analysis for Grocery Outlet Holding

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If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report on Grocery Outlet Holding.

Is There Enough Growth For Grocery Outlet Holding?

In order to justify its P/E ratio, Grocery Outlet Holding would need to produce outstanding growth well in excess of the market.

Taking a look back first, the company's earnings per share growth last year wasn't something to get excited about as it posted a disappointing decline of 19%. Still, the latest three year period has seen an excellent 259% overall rise in EPS, in spite of its unsatisfying short-term performance. Accordingly, while they would have preferred to keep the run going, shareholders would probably welcome the medium-term rates of earnings growth.

Turning to the outlook, the next three years should generate growth of 1.2% each year as estimated by the analysts watching the company. That's shaping up to be materially lower than the 11% per year growth forecast for the broader market.

In light of this, it's alarming that Grocery Outlet Holding's P/E sits above the majority of other companies. It seems most investors are hoping for a turnaround in the company's business prospects, but the analyst cohort is not so confident this will happen. There's a good chance these shareholders are setting themselves up for future disappointment if the P/E falls to levels more in line with the growth outlook.

The Key Takeaway

Grocery Outlet Holding's P/E is flying high just like its stock has during the last month. While the price-to-earnings ratio shouldn't be the defining factor in whether you buy a stock or not, it's quite a capable barometer of earnings expectations.

We've established that Grocery Outlet Holding currently trades on a much higher than expected P/E since its forecast growth is lower than the wider market. When we see a weak earnings outlook with slower than market growth, we suspect the share price is at risk of declining, sending the high P/E lower. This places shareholders' investments at significant risk and potential investors in danger of paying an excessive premium.

Before you take the next step, you should know about the 1 warning sign for Grocery Outlet Holding that we have uncovered.

If you're unsure about the strength of Grocery Outlet Holding's business, why not explore our interactive list of stocks with solid business fundamentals for some other companies you may have missed.

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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