Unfortunately for some shareholders, the H&R Block (NYSE:HRB) share price has dived 38% in the last thirty days. Indeed the recent decline has arguably caused some bitterness for shareholders who have held through the 48% drop over twelve months.
Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more attractive to potential buyers. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. The implication here is that long term investors have an opportunity when expectations of a company are too low. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.
Does H&R Block Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
H&R Block's P/E of 6.06 indicates relatively low sentiment towards the stock. The image below shows that H&R Block has a lower P/E than the average (24.4) P/E for companies in the consumer services industry.
This suggests that market participants think H&R Block 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. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
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. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.
H&R Block saw earnings per share decrease by 37% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 11% per year over the last three years. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 2.6% per year over the last five years. This might lead to muted expectations.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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.
Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.
How Does H&R Block's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
H&R Block's net debt is 94% of its market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.
The Bottom Line On H&R Block's P/E Ratio
H&R Block's P/E is 6.1 which is below average (12.9) in the US market. When you consider that the company has significant debt, and didn't grow EPS last year, it isn't surprising that the market has muted expectations. Given H&R Block's P/E ratio has declined from 9.7 to 6.1 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is more worried about the business today, than it was back then. For those who prefer invest in growth, this stock apparently offers limited promise, but the deep value investors may find the pessimism around this stock enticing.
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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.
You might be able to find a better buy than H&R Block. 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).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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