Central Garden & Pet Company's (NASDAQ:CENT) 26% Share Price Surge Not Quite Adding Up

Central Garden & Pet Company +1.81%

Central Garden & Pet Company

CENT

39.98

+1.81%

Central Garden & Pet Company (NASDAQ:CENT) shares have had a really impressive month, gaining 26% after a shaky period beforehand. The last 30 days bring the annual gain to a very sharp 34%.

After such a large jump in price, Central Garden & Pet may be sending bearish signals at the moment with its price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 21.7x, since almost half of all companies in the United States have P/E ratios under 16x and even P/E's lower than 9x are not unusual. Nonetheless, we'd need to dig a little deeper to determine if there is a rational basis for the elevated P/E.

Recent times haven't been advantageous for Central Garden & Pet as its earnings have been falling quicker than most other companies. One possibility is that the P/E is high because investors think the company will turn things around completely and accelerate past most others in the market. If not, then existing shareholders may be very nervous about the viability of the share price.

View our latest analysis for Central Garden & Pet

pe-multiple-vs-industry
NasdaqGS:CENT Price to Earnings Ratio vs Industry December 29th 2023
Want the full picture on analyst estimates for the company? Then our free report on Central Garden & Pet will help you uncover what's on the horizon.

Does Growth Match The High P/E?

The only time you'd be truly comfortable seeing a P/E as high as Central Garden & Pet's is when the company's growth is on track to outshine the market.

If we review the last year of earnings, dishearteningly the company's profits fell to the tune of 16%. Unfortunately, that's brought it right back to where it started three years ago with EPS growth being virtually non-existent overall during that time. Accordingly, shareholders probably wouldn't have been overly satisfied with the unstable medium-term growth rates.

Shifting to the future, estimates from the four analysts covering the company suggest earnings should grow by 3.9% each year over the next three years. With the market predicted to deliver 13% growth per year, the company is positioned for a weaker earnings result.

In light of this, it's alarming that Central Garden & Pet's P/E sits above the majority of other companies. It seems most investors are hoping for a turnaround in the company's business prospects, but the analyst cohort is not so confident this will happen. 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 Final Word

Central Garden & Pet shares have received a push in the right direction, but its P/E is elevated too. 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.

Our examination of Central Garden & Pet's analyst forecasts revealed that its inferior earnings outlook isn't impacting its high P/E anywhere near as much as we would have predicted. When we see a weak earnings outlook with slower than market growth, we suspect the share price is at risk of declining, sending the high P/E lower. Unless these conditions improve markedly, it's very challenging to accept these prices as being reasonable.

We don't want to rain on the parade too much, but we did also find 1 warning sign for Central Garden & Pet that you need to be mindful of.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with a strong growth track record, trading on a low P/E.

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