This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to begin learning about how to value company based on its current earnings and what are the drawbacks of this method.
Erie Indemnity Company (NASDAQ:ERIE) is currently trading at a trailing P/E of 27.4, which is higher than the industry average of 17.3. Though this might seem to be a negative, you might change your mind after I explain the assumptions behind the P/E ratio. Today, I will deconstruct the P/E ratio and highlight what you need to be careful of when using the P/E ratio.
Breaking down the Price-Earnings ratio
P/E is often used for relative valuation since earnings power is a chief driver of investment value. It compares a stock’s price per share to the stock’s earnings per share. A more intuitive way of understanding the P/E ratio is to think of it as how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.
P/E Calculation for ERIE
Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share
ERIE Price-Earnings Ratio = $123.53 ÷ $4.514 = 27.4x
The P/E ratio itself doesn’t tell you a lot; however, it becomes very insightful when you compare it with other similar companies. Our goal is to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar attributes to ERIE, such as company lifetime and products sold. One way of gathering a peer group is to use firms in the same industry, which is what I’ll do. At 27.4, ERIE’s P/E is higher than its industry peers (17.3). This implies that investors are overvaluing each dollar of ERIE’s earnings. This multiple is a median of profitable companies of 25 Insurance companies in US including Genworth Financial, Syncora Holdings and Reinsurance Group of America. You could think of it like this: the market is pricing ERIE as if it is a stronger company than the average of its industry group.
Assumptions to watch out for
Before you jump to conclusions it is important to realise that there are assumptions in this analysis. The first is that our “similar companies” are actually similar to ERIE. If not, the difference in P/E might be a result of other factors. For example, if Erie Indemnity Company is growing faster than its peers, then it would deserve a higher P/E ratio. Of course, it is possible that the stocks we are comparing with ERIE are not fairly valued. Thus while we might conclude that it is richly valued relative to its peers, that could be explained by the peer group being undervalued.
What this means for you:
If your personal research into the stock confirms what the P/E ratio is telling you, it might be a good time to rebalance your portfolio and reduce your holdings in ERIE. But keep in mind that the usefulness of relative valuation depends on whether you are comfortable with making the assumptions I mentioned above. Remember that basing your investment decision off one metric alone is certainly not sufficient. There are many things I have not taken into account in this article and the PE ratio is very one-dimensional. If you have not done so already, I urge you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for ERIE’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for ERIE’s outlook.
- Past Track Record: Has ERIE been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of ERIE’s historicals for more clarity.
- Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.