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Why McCormick & Company, Incorporated's (NYSE:MKC) High P/E Ratio Isn't Necessarily A Bad Thing

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how McCormick & Company, Incorporated's (NYSE:MKC) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, McCormick has a P/E ratio of 23.50. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $23.50 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

Check out our latest analysis for McCormick

How Do You Calculate McCormick's P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for McCormick:

P/E of 23.50 = $124.540 ÷ $5.299 (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2019.)

(Note: the above calculation results may not be precise due to rounding.)

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 Does McCormick's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. As you can see below, McCormick has a higher P/E than the average company (18.3) in the food industry.

NYSE:MKC Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 23rd 2020

McCormick's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and 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. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

McCormick's earnings per share fell by 25% in the last twelve months. But EPS is up 9.5% over the last 5 years.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. 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.

So What Does McCormick's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

McCormick's net debt is 24% of its market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Bottom Line On McCormick's P/E Ratio

McCormick's P/E is 23.5 which is above average (11.8) in its market. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it's safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

You might be able to find a better buy than McCormick. 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 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.

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. Thank you for reading.