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Don’t Sell Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (NYSE:MMC) Before You Read This

Bruce Howe

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.’s (NYSE:MMC) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Based on the last twelve months, Marsh & McLennan Companies’s P/E ratio is 27. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 3.7%.

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How Do You Calculate Marsh & McLennan Companies’s P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Marsh & McLennan Companies:

P/E of 27 = $81.15 ÷ $3.01 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company earnings. That isn’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. Earnings growth means that in the future the ‘E’ will be higher. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Marsh & McLennan Companies shrunk earnings per share by 19% over the last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 6.5%.

How Does Marsh & McLennan Companies’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (13.5) for companies in the insurance industry is lower than Marsh & McLennan Companies’s P/E.

NYSE:MMC PE PEG Gauge January 12th 19

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Marsh & McLennan Companies shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn’t guarantee future growth. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet

It’s important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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.

Marsh & McLennan Companies’s Balance Sheet

Marsh & McLennan Companies’s net debt is 13% of its market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Bottom Line On Marsh & McLennan Companies’s P/E Ratio

Marsh & McLennan Companies has a P/E of 27. That’s higher than the average in the US market, which is 16.8. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it’s safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. People often underestimate remarkable growth — so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold they key to an excellent investment decision.

But note: Marsh & McLennan Companies 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).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.