At this linK: http://biz.yahoo.com/p/sum_conameu.html I am looking at P/E ratios by industry. I see that Biotechnology is having a P/E ratio of 145 which is very high compared to other industries. What is so special about this industry that resutls in such a high P/E? I understand if a P/E of a particular company is high related to its industry. But how can a whole industry be out of line with the other industries?
If you look at the biotech breakdown, you'll find a lot of NAs when it comes to P/E since there are many young biotech companies that have yet to make a profit. Thus, there may be something to be said for how is the entire industry stat computed.
Biotechnology can include pharmaceutical companies that can have big profits due to patents on drugs.
As an example, look at Shire PLC which has a P/E of 1243 which is pretty high with a Market Capitalization of over a billion dollars, so this isn't a small company. I wonder what dot-com companies would have looked like in 1998/1999 that could well be similar as some industries will have bubbles you do realize, right?
The reason for pointing out the Market Capitalization is that this a way to measure the size of a company, as this is merely the sum of all the stock of the company. There could be small companies that have low market capitalizations that could have high P/Es as they are relatively young and could be believed to have enough hype that there is a great deal of confidence in the stock. For example, Amazon.com was public for years before turning a profit. In being without profits, there is no P/E and thus it is worth understanding the limitations of a P/E as the computation just takes the previous year's earnings for a company divided by the current stock price. If the expected growth rate is high enough this can be a way to justify a high P/E for a stock. The question you asked about an industry having this is the derivation from a set of stocks. If most of the stocks are high enough, then whatever mean or median one wants to use as the "industry average" will come from that.
Residential Construction at 362x, by the way.
I'm going to hazard a guess here - Say XYZ corp trades at $100, and it's showing a normal earnings of $10 the last few years. Its industry falls on hard times, and while it makes enough to keep its doors open, profits fall to $1. The company itself is still sound, but the small earnings result in a high P/E. By the way, its book value is $110, and they have huge cash on the books along with real estate.
I offer these details to show why the price doesn't drop like a rock.
Now, biotech may be in a period of low reported earnings but with future results expected to justify the price. On one hand it may be an anomaly, with earnings due to rise, or it may be a bit of a bubble. An analyst for this sector should be able to comment if I'm on the right track.