Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Ensign Group (NASDAQ:ENSG) share price has dived 30% in the last thirty days. That drop has capped off a tough year for shareholders, with the share price down 43% in that time.
All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more attractive to potential investors. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
How Does Ensign Group's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 17.03 that sentiment around Ensign Group isn't particularly high. If you look at the image below, you can see Ensign Group has a lower P/E than the average (20.6) in the healthcare industry classification.
Ensign Group's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
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. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
It's nice to see that Ensign Group grew EPS by a stonking 50% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 16% per year over the last five years. With that performance, I would expect it to have an above average P/E ratio.
Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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.
How Does Ensign Group's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
Ensign Group has net debt worth 16% of its market capitalization. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.
The Verdict On Ensign Group's P/E Ratio
Ensign Group has a P/E of 17.0. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 12.9. While the company does use modest debt, its recent earnings growth is superb. So on this analysis a high P/E ratio seems reasonable. Given Ensign Group's P/E ratio has declined from 24.5 to 17.0 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is significantly less confident about the business today, than it was back then. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for a contrarian, it may signal opportunity.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.
You might be able to find a better buy than Ensign Group. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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