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The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at Essent Group Ltd.'s (NYSE:ESNT) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Essent Group has a price to earnings ratio of 9.56, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $9.56 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.
How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?
The formula for price to earnings is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for Essent Group:
P/E of 9.56 = $47.49 ÷ $4.97 (Based on the year to March 2019.)
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 isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
Essent Group increased earnings per share by an impressive 11% over the last twelve months. And earnings per share have improved by 48% annually, over the last five years. With that performance, you might expect an above average P/E ratio.
How Does Essent Group's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (14.3) for companies in the mortgage industry is higher than Essent Group's P/E.
Essent Group's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.
Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).
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.
Essent Group's Balance Sheet
Essent Group has net cash of US$15m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.
The Bottom Line On Essent Group's P/E Ratio
Essent Group has a P/E of 9.6. That's below the average in the US market, which is 17.2. Not only should the net cash position reduce risk, but the recent growth has been impressive. The below average P/E ratio suggests that market participants don't believe the strong growth will continue. Because analysts are predicting more growth in the future, one might have expected to see a higher P/E ratio. You can taker closer look at the fundamentals, here.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. 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 Essent 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).
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 email@example.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.