PE Ratio

What is PE Ratio?

Price to earnings ratio (P/E) is one of the most important financial analysis ratios that is used by analysts to determine how the company is faring when compared to other companies in the same domain and how the company is faring when compared to the past performance of the company.

PE Formula

PE ratio (price to earnings) is primarily derived from the Payback MultiplePayback MultipleThe payback period refers to the time that a project or investment takes to compensate for its total initial cost. In other words, it is the duration an investment or project requires to attain the break-even more that means how many years it will take to get your money back. Likewise, think of PE as how many years’ earnings it will take for an investor to recover the price paid for the share. For example, if the PE multiple is 10x. This basically implies that for each $1 of earning, the investor has paid $10. Hence, it will take 10 years of earnings for the investor to recover the price paid.

PE Ratio Formula = Price Per Share / Earnings Per Share


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For eg:
Source: PE Ratio (

On Feb 2, Google passed Apple as the most valuable company – Google Market CapitalizationMarket CapitalizationMarket capitalization or market cap is the total market value of all the outstanding shares and is calculated by multiplying the outstanding shares with the current market price. Investors use this ratio to determine the company's size rather than using total sales or total more surpassed Apple Market Cap. How did this happen?  Let us closely look at there this price earning ratio example –  Google PE ratio is trading at 30.58x; however, Apple Price Earning Ratio was at around 10.20x.

Apple vs Google PE Ratio

source: ycharts

Despite the lower PE multiple of Apple, Apple stocks still have taken the beating. Apple returned -25.8% (negative) in the past 1 year; however, Google Returned approx. 30% (positive) in the corresponding period.

Apple vs Google Returns

source: ycharts

A couple of quick questions on this for you?

  • Is Apple a BUY?
  • Is Google a SELL?
  • Is Apple now cheaper than Google?
  • Which PE are we talking about – Forward PE Ratio or Trailing PE Ratio?
  • Why are Apple prices decreasing even though it has a lower PE Ratio?

To understand the answer to all the questions above, it is important for us to understand the core and probably the most important valuation parameter, i.e., PE multiple or Price Earning Ratio.

Also, checkout Why Price to Book Value is used for Bank ValuationsWhy Price To Book Value Is Used For Bank ValuationsPrice to Book Value Ratio or P/B Ratio helps to identify stock opportunities in Financial companies, especially banks, and is used with other valuation tools like PE Ratio, PCF, EV/EBITDA. Price to Book Value Ratio = Price Per Share / Book Value Per Share read more.

This Price to Earning Guide focuses on the nuts and bolts of PE multiple and covers the following topics.

Price Earning Ratio Calculation

Let us take a quick PE Ratio example of Colgate and calculate its PE multiple.

As of Feb 22, 2016, Colgate Price Per Share is $67.61

Colgate’s earnings per share (trailing twelve months) is 1.509

Price Earning Ratio or PE Ratio Formula = $67.61/1.509 = 44.8x

Simple, as you saw that it is not at all difficult to calculate PE ratio :-)

PE Ratio Examples

Method #1 Compare Historical Price Earning Ratio of the Company

Graphical Interpretation of PE Multiple is no rocket science. If you are wondering how to create this Price Earning Ratio graph, you can look at the Investment Banking ChartsInvestment Banking ChartsThe top 4 investment banking charts an investment banking firm must be aware of while creating excellent financial and valuation models and its analysis include PE chart, PE band chart, football field graph and scenario graph. read more.

Price Earning Ratio chart helps the investors visualize the valuation multiple of Stock or Index over a period of time. In this  Price Earning Ratio example graph of a company named Foodland Farsi is depicted over a period of March’02 until March’07.

PE Chart

The above graph compares the current PE multiple with the historical Price Earning Ratio Ratios. We note that the above graph denotes that stock is overvalued as compared to historical PE multiple.

PE Band Chart

Likewise, from the above Price Earning Ratio Band Chart, we note that the stock is trading at the Upper Price Earning Ratio Band of 20.2x, implying higher valuations as compared to historical ratios.

You can prepare the same graphs for Price to Cash FlowPrice To Cash FlowPrice to Cash Flow Ratio is a value indicator that measures a company's stock price in relation to the cash flow amount it generates. This is determined as the ratio of Price Per Share to Operating Cash Flow Per Share. read more Ratio, EV to EBIT formulaEV To EBIT FormulaThe EV to EBIT ratio is an important valuation metric that determines whether a company's stock is expensive or cheap in comparison to the broader market or a more, etc.

Method # 2 – Compare the Price Earning Ratio of the company with the other companies within the sector.

Let us look at the PE multiple of Colgate and its comparison with the Industry. What do you note?

Colgate PE compared to Industry

Source – Reuters

We note that Colgate’s Price Earning Ratio is 44.55x; however, the Industry Price Earning Ratio is 61.99x. This implies that on one side, Colgate is trading at approx. 44 times its earnings, the Industry is trading at approx. 62 times its earnings. This is a no-brainer; you would like to pay $44 per $ earnings for Colgate, rather than opting for $62 per $ earning for the Industry.

Method #3 – Interpretation using a Comparable Comp

PE Ratio Valuation Example

The above table is nothing but a Comparable Comp. A comparable comp lists all relevant industry competitors, its financial forecasts, and important valuation parameters. In this table, we have considered only PE Multiple (as this is a PE multiple discussion).

A couple of questions for you with respect to the comp table provided above –

  • Which is the cheapest stock?
  • Which one is the most expensive?

I hope you found the answers; guess should not be too difficult. Let us dive into the rationale for the same.

Which is the cheapest stock?
  1. The average Trailing Price Earning Ratio is 19.2x. There is only one stock that is lower than this average Trailing Price Earnings Ratio, i.e., Company BBB.
  2. Likewise, if you look at the Average Forward PE Multiple, company BBB has a lower Forward Price Earning Ratio that its respective averages.
  3. Strictly from this Comp Table, we note that Company BBB is the cheapest Stock.
Which is the Most Expensive Stock?
  1. There are 3 stocks whose Trailing PE Ratio is more than the Average Trailing PE Ratio. Company AAA, CCC, and DDD
  2. Out of these 3, it is difficult to find the most expensive stock strictly on the basis of Trailing PE Ratio (all are closer to Trailing PE of  23x
  3. Let us now compare the Forward PEForward PEForward PE ratio uses the forecasted earnings per share of the company over the next 12 months for calculating the price-earnings ratio. Forward PE ratio formula = Price per share/Projected earnings per share read more Ratio of these 3 stocks. We note that for 2016, Stock DDD has the highest Forward PE Ratio (28.7x in 2016E and 38.3x in 2017E)
  4. This implies that Stock DDD is the most expensive stock from the above table.

Though the Price Earning Ratio formula is easy to calculate, one should keep in mind the following important points regarding the PE Multiple.

A high PE Multiple is sometimes cited as a reason for not buying a stock. However, fast-growing companies are typically associated with high PEs. Obviously, investing in fast-growing companies can be profitable. Therefore a high PE multiple should not necessarily prevent investors from investing in the stock.

How to Find Target Price using Price Earning Ratio?

Not only is it important for us to understand whether the stock is a BUY or a SELL, but it is also equally important to understand the Target Price of the stock under consideration.

What is Target Price? – it is nothing but what you expect the stock price to be, say at the end of 2016 or 2017, etc.

Let us look at the following Company PE Ratio Example.

Let us assume that WallStreetMojo is operating in Services Sector along with its peers – AAA, BBB, CCC, DDD, EEE, FFF, GGG, HHH.

Target Price Example

In order to find the Target Price of WallStreetMojo, we should find the Average Trailing PE and the Forward PEs. We note that the Average Trailing PE Ratio is 56.5x, and the Forward PE Ratios are 47.9x and 43.2x, respectively.

WallStreetMojo’s Target PriceTarget PricePrice Target in the context of stock markets, means the expected valuation of a stock in the coming future and the valuation may be done either by the stock analysts or by the investors themselves. For an investor, price target reflects the price at which he will be willing to buy or sell the stock at a particular period of time or mark an exit from their current more = EPS (WallStreetMojo ) x Forward PE Ratio

Let us assume that  WallStreetMojo  2016E and 2017E EPS is $4 and $5, respectively.

Given the PE multiple formula above,

WallStreetMojo  2016E Target price = $4 x 47.9 = $191.6

WallStreetMojo  2016E Target price = $5 x 43.2 = $216

Theoretically, the Target Prices look good. Practically the Target Prices look all wrong!


Target prices look all wrong due to the presence of outliers in the Comparable Table that we prepared. Please note that HHH has Price Earning Ratio closer to 200x. There could be various reasons for the high Price Earning Ratio of HHH; however, we are here to find the appropriate target price for WallStreetMojo.

For finding the Correct Target Price, we need to remove outliers like HHH, revise the Comparable Table, and find the new average PE multiple. Using these modified PE Multiples, we can re-calculate the Target Price.

Target Price PE Example

Revised WallStreetMojo  2016E Target price = $4 x 17.2 = $68.8

Revised WallStreetMojo  2016E Target price = $5 x 18.2 = $91

Industry and Country Price Earning Ratio

If you do not have access to paid databases like Bloomberg, Factset, Factiva, then you can look at some of the free resources for such data –

Additionally, if you want to look at the various PE Multiples of different countries, you can look at the following resources –

Rationale for using PE Ratio


Assume that there are two companies – company AA and BB. Think of these companies as identical twins (i know it is not possible for companies :-), but for a moment in a blue sky scenario, let’s assume this is so). Identical sales, costs, clients, and almost everything possible.

In such a case, you should not have any preference to buy a specific stock as the valuations of both the companies should be the same.

Introducing a slight twist now. Assuming that AA follows Straight Line Depreciation PolicyStraight Line Depreciation PolicyStraight Line Depreciation Method is one of the most popular methods of depreciation where the asset uniformly depreciates over its useful life and the cost of the asset is evenly spread over its useful and functional life. read more and BB follows an accelerated depreciationAccelerated DepreciationAccelerated depreciation is a way of depreciating assets at a faster rate than the straight-line method, resulting in higher depreciation expenses in the early years of the asset's useful life than in the later years. The assumption that assets are more productive in the early years than in later years is the main motivation for using this method. read more policy. This is the only change between the two companies. Straight-line charges equal depreciation over the useful life. Accelerated Deprecation policy charges higher depreciation in initial years and lower depreciation in final years.

Let us see what happens to their valuations?

PE Ratio - depreciation policy changes

As noted above, the PE Multiple of AA is 22.9x, while the PE PE Multiple of BB is 38.1x. So which one will you buy? Given this information, we are inclined to favor AA as its PE multiple is lower. However, our very assumption that these two companies are identical twins and should command the same valuations is challenged because we used PE Multiple. We can use other ratios like EV/EBITDARatios Like EV/EBITDAEV to EBITDA is the ratio between enterprise value and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization that helps the investor in the valuation of the company at a very subtle level by allowing the investor to compare a specific company to the peer company in the industry as a whole, or other comparative more to solve such issues; however, we will come to that discussion in another post. For the moment, please note that PE ratios have some serious limitations in its universal application.

For a reason above, it is also recommended to use earnings as earnings before exceptional items.


PE Ratios remain one of the widely used Valuation methodologies. On one side, the Price Earning Ratio is very easy to calculate and understand; however, its application can be very complex and most tricky. Please be careful while considering Price Earning Ratio and do consider not only just the Trailing PE ratio but also the Forward PE Ratios to find the appropriate Target Price.

PE Ratio Video

I hope you enjoyed this article. Good Luck!

Reader Interactions


  1. Khalid says

    Thanks for sharing. Very informative and useful.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      thanks Khalid. I am glad you found this useful.


  2. Diana says

    Rudy Comp reported $32million in earnings during FY2015. An analyst forecasts an EPS over the next twelve month of $1.2. Rudy has 25 million shares outstanding at a market price of $20/share. Calculate Rudy’s trailing and leading P/E ratio. If the 5 year historical average PE is 15x, whether Rudy Comp is overvalued or undervalued?

    Hi, can I know how as the analysts they decide on the company recommendation(Buy or Sell)? Lets say the above example historical average PE is 15x, PE forward is 16.67x. So if it is overvalued means analyst recommends for sell?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hey Diana, you interpretation is correct. We normally compare the forward PE with the historical PEs to check if it is more or less. As in the example here, Forward PE is more than the 5 year avg historical PE, hence it is a sell.


  3. Elleshii says

    yea, it is really useful. looking forward new articles.
    Thank you so much.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      thank you Elleshii!

  4. megha says


    good content

  5. Arinjay says

    Thanks for valuable update, Dheeraj Sir !

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      My pleasure Arinjay!

  6. Brandon says

    Hi Dheeraj,

    Could you wright a topic about Special purpose vehicle/entity or off-balance sheet? Or a case study about Enron fraud.

    Thank you so much

    • Brandon says

      Sorry. I mean “write” not “wright” :)

      • Dheeraj Vaidya says


    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hey Brandon,

      I am planning to write an article on Identifying the Shenanigans, which caters to what the management may do to make financials look rosy. In this one of the topic is related to off balance sheet items.

      Will update you soon.


  7. Vivek Jain says

    Great way to learn finance

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      thanks Vivek! :-)

  8. Ankur Gupta says

    Hi Dheeraj..

    Hats off to your way of clarifying things..!!!!

    • Dheeraj says

      Thanks Ankur! :-)

      • Yashpal Setiya says

        Dear Mr. Dheeraj

        Your presentation and explanations are excellent and we look forward to receive your next

        • Dheeraj Vaidya says


        • Dheeraj Vaidya says

          thanks Yashpal!

  9. Omkar says

    I express my Gratitude and at the same time I also Appreciate your work for Sharing important information related to Finance, Investment Banking.

    Your Financial Modelling Information is very Useful and BEST as compared to one which is taught in classes.

    Thanks & Regards


    • Dheeraj says

      Hello Omkar,

      I am glad you find the articles on wallstreetmojo interesting :-)
      Do let me know if you have any questions.


  10. Sadaf says

    Very informative I will in sha Allah drop my answer by tomorrow.

    • Dheeraj says

      Sure Sadaf. Thanks.

  11. shrikant says

    Hi Dhiraj,

    Very very informative & explain in very simple manner. Any layman/investor who is having some knowledge of finance, can easily understand the concept .

    Do post this type of educative info.



    • Dheeraj says

      Thanks Shrikant, I am glad you like the PE Ratio post.


  12. BIBIN PAUL says

    Dear sir.
    Thanks for Your blog. appreciation for your aspiration of knowledge sharing.

    • Dheeraj says

      Thanks Bibin.:-)

  13. a says

    is it 20/1,2 = 16,17x

  14. Michael Iskiwitch says

    2015 PE Trailing = 15.625
    2016 PE Forward = 16.667
    Company is overvalued


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