Transaction Capital Limited's (JSE:TCP) price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 16.1x might make it look like a strong sell right now compared to the market in South Africa, where around half of the companies have P/E ratios below 8x and even P/E's below 5x are quite common. Although, it's not wise to just take the P/E at face value as there may be an explanation why it's so lofty.
Transaction Capital hasn't been tracking well recently as its declining earnings compare poorly to other companies, which have seen some growth on average. One possibility is that the P/E is high because investors think this poor earnings performance will turn the corner. If not, then existing shareholders may be extremely nervous about the viability of the share price.
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How Is Transaction Capital's Growth Trending?
Transaction Capital's P/E ratio would be typical for a company that's expected to deliver very strong growth, and importantly, perform much better than the market.
If we review the last year of earnings, dishearteningly the company's profits fell to the tune of 31%. Still, the latest three year period has seen an excellent 89% overall rise in EPS, in spite of its unsatisfying short-term performance. Although it's been a bumpy ride, it's still fair to say the earnings growth recently has been more than adequate for the company.
Turning to the outlook, the next year should generate growth of 1.3% as estimated by the lone analyst watching the company. Meanwhile, the rest of the market is forecast to expand by 7.7%, which is noticeably more attractive.
In light of this, it's alarming that Transaction Capital's P/E sits above the majority of other companies. Apparently many investors in the company are way more bullish than analysts indicate and aren't willing to let go of their stock at any price. Only the boldest would assume these prices are sustainable as this level of earnings growth is likely to weigh heavily on the share price eventually.
The Key Takeaway
Typically, we'd caution against reading too much into price-to-earnings ratios when settling on investment decisions, though it can reveal plenty about what other market participants think about the company.
We've established that Transaction Capital currently trades on a much higher than expected P/E since its forecast growth is lower than the wider market. Right now we are increasingly uncomfortable with the high P/E as the predicted future earnings aren't likely to support such positive sentiment for long. Unless these conditions improve markedly, it's very challenging to accept these prices as being reasonable.
Before you take the next step, you should know about the 4 warning signs for Transaction Capital (1 doesn't sit too well with us!) that we have uncovered.
You might be able to find a better investment than Transaction Capital. If you want a selection of possible candidates, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20x (but have proven they can grow earnings).
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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