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Is Argo Group International Holdings, Ltd.'s (NYSE:ARGO) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Argo Group International Holdings, Ltd.'s (NYSE:ARGO) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Argo Group International Holdings has a price to earnings ratio of 20.16, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 5.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for Argo Group International Holdings

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Argo Group International Holdings:

P/E of 20.16 = $69.35 ÷ $3.44 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

Does Argo Group International Holdings Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (15.6) for companies in the insurance industry is lower than Argo Group International Holdings's P/E.

NYSE:ARGO Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 19th 2019

That means that the market expects Argo Group International Holdings will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

Argo Group International Holdings's 243% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. Regrettably, the longer term performance is poor, with EPS down 4.3% per year over 5 years.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

Argo Group International Holdings's Balance Sheet

Argo Group International Holdings has net cash of US$17m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.

The Verdict On Argo Group International Holdings's P/E Ratio

Argo Group International Holdings trades on a P/E ratio of 20.2, which is above its market average of 17.6. Its net cash position is the cherry on top of its superb EPS growth. So based on this analysis we'd expect Argo Group International Holdings to have a high P/E ratio.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

But note: Argo Group International Holdings may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.