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Is Everest Re Group, Ltd.'s (NYSE:RE) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. To keep it practical, we'll show how Everest Re Group, Ltd.'s (NYSE:RE) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Everest Re Group has a P/E ratio of 26.66. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $26.66 for every $1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for Everest Re Group

How Do I Calculate Everest Re Group's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Everest Re Group:

P/E of 26.66 = USD275.54 ÷ USD10.34 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each USD1 of company earnings. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

How Does Everest Re Group's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. The image below shows that Everest Re Group has a higher P/E than the average (16.7) P/E for companies in the insurance industry.

NYSE:RE Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 16th 2020

That means that the market expects Everest Re Group will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means unless the share price falls, the P/E will increase in a few years. So while a stock may look cheap based on past earnings, it could be expensive based on future earnings.

Everest Re Group saw earnings per share decrease by 60% last year. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 17% per year over the last five years. This could justify a pessimistic P/E.

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. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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).

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.

Is Debt Impacting Everest Re Group's P/E?

The extra options and safety that comes with Everest Re Group's US$542m net cash position means that it deserves a higher P/E than it would if it had a lot of net debt.

The Verdict On Everest Re Group's P/E Ratio

Everest Re Group trades on a P/E ratio of 26.7, which is above its market average of 18.9. The recent drop in earnings per share might keep value investors away, but the relatively strong balance sheet will allow the company time to invest in growth. Clearly, the high P/E indicates shareholders think it will!

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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.

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 editorial-team@simplywallst.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.

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. Thank you for reading.