Price Earnings Valuation (P/E)

Price Earnings Valuation – Why it’s not good to use as isolated valuation approach

Price earnings ratio (P/E) is a commonly used valuation metric. It is very simple to calculate and easily understood. Therefore, it is helpful to identify potential bargains, but further analysis is required.

How to calculate P/E?


Companies share price is $ 100 and the company earns $ 20 per share (EPS = earnings per share).

P/E = Price/Earning = 100/20 = 5.

A P/E of 5 is often considered very low and can be interpreted that the company is cheaply valued or undervalued. Whereas for example a P/E of 40 is considered high.

In below example I will show you why this is not always the case and how P/E can be manipulated. We have two companies:

Company X and Y with the same revenue, Enterprise Value (EV) and EBIT but different capital structure.

Company X has no debt and Company Y operates with 50% equity and 50% debt an pays 8% interests on its debt.

Interest expenses of Company Y lowers their profit but also their tax liabilities.

As you can see company Y looks much cheaper on an isolated P/E valuation with a PE of 10.42 vs. 12.5 for company X. Why is that? The simple answer is that P/E falls with an increase in financial leverage.


P/E is a weak technique of comparing company valuations as the same company can generate quite different P/E multiples solely because of variations in its debt level.

Even though both companies deliver the same earnings and company Y looks much cheaper on a P/E multiple, company X is the more attractive investment as it’s less risky due to its lower leverage.

1 thought on “Price Earnings Valuation (P/E)

  1. You make some very important points. The P/E ratio gives some first information but should never be used as an isolated approach, otherwise one risks bad investment decisions. Low P/E (< 10) ratio indicates rather a cheap stock but is also a strong sign for some fundamental problems, whether of the industry and/or the business. Companies with "traditionally" high P/E can make very good investments. They tend to grow into their high valuations through strong growth. It's counterintuitive, but a "cheap" stock in terms of P/E can become quite expensive.

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