What Is the Average Price/Profit (P/E) Ratio in the Oil and Gas Sector?
Investing in oil and gas drilling is profitable but volatile. Check the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio for insight into value, though it may not be ideal due to oil price fluctuations and high capital expenses affecting earnings.
Investing in the energy sector, particularly in oil and gas drilling companies, offers unique opportunities. This sector revolves around exploring and extracting raw materials to refine into usable oil, commonly referred to as the "upstream" segment of the oil industry. Some companies focus solely on oil exploration and production, while others are comprehensive players in the industry, known as integrated oil companies or "supermajors," like Exxon, BP, and Shell.
To assess a company's suitability for inclusion in an investor's portfolio, calculating specific financial ratios is essential. Among these ratios, the price-to-earnings ratio (P/E ratio) holds particular importance. This metric provides valuable insights into a company's financial position and long-term prospects, enabling informed investment decisions.
Understanding the P/E Ratio
The P/E ratio, or Price-to-Earnings ratio, offers insight into a company's or industry's value by comparing its current share price to its earnings per share (EPS). This ratio is calculated as
P/E Ratio = Market value per share / Earnings per share, typically based on the share price data from the previous four quarters.
The P/E ratio is a valuable tool to assess a company's shares in relation to its peers or a specific benchmark. It aids in identifying whether a stock is overvalued or undervalued. Additionally, a high P/E ratio suggests that shareholders anticipate stronger earnings growth, whether for current or future calculations. However, it's crucial to note that higher ratios do not guarantee increased returns compared to other companies in the same sector or industry.
Average P/E Ratio and Suitability
As of January 2022, the oil and gas drilling sector (covering production and exploration) had an average P/E ratio of 34.66, which exceeds the S&P 500 10-year P/E ratio of 11.78. However, analysts often question the suitability of the P/E ratio for this sector due to its unique characteristics.
This skepticism arises from the sector's substantial capital expenditure, particularly for machinery. When oil prices are low, companies reduce capital expenditures but increase them when oil prices rise. The P/E ratio, being backward-looking, reflects past performance, making it less reliable for forecasting returns in this volatile industry.
Oil price fluctuations lead to volatility in capital expenditures, which in turn affects earnings. Consequently, the P/E ratio becomes an unreliable indicator for the sector. Additionally, many oil and gas drilling companies reinvest their cash flows in new assets, making it challenging to accurately assess a company's profitability. Nonetheless, the P/E ratio can offer insights when comparing similar companies.
P/E Ratio in Different Industries and Companies
The suitability of a P/E ratio varies by industry and company. Companies with P/E ratios of 10 can outperform those with ratios of 20. Comparable companies within the same industry and sharing similar business models and financial structures tend to have similar P/E ratios. A higher ratio typically suggests better returns, though this is not a universal rule.
The oil and gas drilling sector in the energy industry offers potential returns for investors. Given the industry's volatility, it's essential for investors to consider relevant metrics, including the P/E ratio, before making investment decisions.