Price-earnings Ratio

Price-earnings ratios are published daily in newspapers for stock market-listed companies, along with the gross dividend yield, dividend cover and other information about the shares of each company. The method of calculation is what the name suggests:

Price-earnings ratio = stockmarket share price divided byEarnings per share

The stockmarket share price used is the one published in the financial newspapers at the close of business in the stock exchange for the previous evening.

As a generalization, when the price earnings ratio of a company is higher than the average for other companies in the same business sector, the stockmarket expects the company to achieve higher than average earnings per share in the foreseeable future to justify the above-average valuation of the shares.

In certain circumstances, the explanation may be quite different. For example, a takeover bid for the company may be widely expected, and the share price has already increased significantly in anticipation of the price to be offered by the bidder.

It must never be forgotten than the analysis of share prices, and especially the prediction of future changes, cannot be done simply by calculating the various ratios. If this was possible, making a fortune on the stockmarket would be easy. In practice, even the most experienced investment-fund managers would make costly errors of judgment from time to time.

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