Unfortunately for some shareholders, the NMC Health (LON:NMC) share price has dived 33% in the last thirty days. Indeed the recent decline has arguably caused some bitterness for shareholders who have held through the 33% drop over twelve months.
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). The implication here is that long term investors have an opportunity when expectations of a company are too low. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.
How Does NMC Health's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
NMC Health's P/E of 17.67 indicates relatively low sentiment towards the stock. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (23.9) for companies in the healthcare industry is higher than NMC Health's P/E.
Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that NMC Health shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
Most would be impressed by NMC Health earnings growth of 24% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 26%. This could arguably justify a relatively high P/E ratio.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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.
While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.
How Does NMC Health's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
NMC Health's net debt equates to 32% of its market capitalization. While it's worth keeping this in mind, it isn't a worry.
The Verdict On NMC Health's P/E Ratio
NMC Health trades on a P/E ratio of 17.7, which is fairly close to the GB market average of 18.3. When you consider the impressive EPS growth last year (along with some debt), it seems the market has questions about whether rapid EPS growth will be sustained. Since analysts are predicting growth will continue, one might expect to see a higher P/E so it may be worth looking closer. Given NMC Health's P/E ratio has declined from 26.2 to 17.7 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 don't like to trade against momentum, that could be a warning sign, but a contrarian investor might want to take a closer look.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. 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.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.
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.
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