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# Despite Its High P/E Ratio, Is Humana Inc. (NYSE:HUM) Still Undervalued?

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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). Weâ€™ll show how you can use Humana Inc.â€™s (NYSE:HUM) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Humana has a price to earnings ratio of 25.35, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay \$25.35 for every \$1 in trailing yearly profits.

### How Do I Calculate Humanaâ€™s Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price Ã· Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Humana:

P/E of 25.35 = \$310.3 Ã· \$12.24 (Based on the year to December 2018.)

### Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isnâ€™t necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

### How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. When earnings grow, the â€˜Eâ€™ increases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Humana saw earnings per share decrease by 28% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 14% per year over the last five years.

### How Does Humanaâ€™s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (21.9) for companies in the healthcare industry is lower than Humanaâ€™s P/E.

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Humana shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

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

The â€˜Priceâ€™ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

### Is Debt Impacting Humanaâ€™s P/E?

Since Humana holds net cash of US\$6.1b, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.

### The Verdict On Humanaâ€™s P/E Ratio

Humana has a P/E of 25.3. Thatâ€™s higher than the average in the US market, which is 17.2. The recent drop in earnings per share would make some investors cautious, but the net cash position means the company has time to improve: and the high P/E suggests the market thinks it will.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, â€˜In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.â€™ So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

But note: Humana 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. On rare occasion, data errors may occur. Thank you for reading.