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When close to half the companies in the United States have price-to-earnings ratios (or "P/E's") below 18x, you may consider HCI Group, Inc. (NYSE:HCI) as a stock to potentially avoid with its 23.1x P/E ratio. However, the P/E might be high for a reason and it requires further investigation to determine if it's justified.
HCI Group certainly has been doing a great job lately as it's been growing earnings at a really rapid pace. The P/E is probably high because investors think this strong earnings growth will be enough to outperform the broader market in the near future. If not, then existing shareholders might be a little nervous about the viability of the share price.
We don't have analyst forecasts, but you can see how recent trends are setting up the company for the future by checking out our free report on HCI Group's earnings, revenue and cash flow.
What Are Growth Metrics Telling Us About The High P/E?
HCI Group's P/E ratio would be typical for a company that's expected to deliver solid growth, and importantly, perform better than the market.
Retrospectively, the last year delivered an exceptional 37% gain to the company's bottom line. Still, incredibly EPS has fallen 35% in total from three years ago, which is quite disappointing. So unfortunately, we have to acknowledge that the company has not done a great job of growing earnings over that time.
Comparing that to the market, which is predicted to deliver 3.2% growth in the next 12 months, the company's downward momentum based on recent medium-term earnings results is a sobering picture.
With this information, we find it concerning that HCI Group is trading at a P/E higher than the market. It seems most investors are ignoring the recent poor growth rate and are hoping for a turnaround in the company's business prospects. There's a very good chance existing shareholders are setting themselves up for future disappointment if the P/E falls to levels more in line with the recent negative growth rates.
The Key Takeaway
Typically, we'd caution against reading too much into price-to-earnings ratios when settling on investment decisions, though it can reveal plenty about what other market participants think about the company.
Our examination of HCI Group revealed its shrinking earnings over the medium-term aren't impacting its high P/E anywhere near as much as we would have predicted, given the market is set to grow. Right now we are increasingly uncomfortable with the high P/E as this earnings performance is highly unlikely to support such positive sentiment for long. Unless the recent medium-term conditions improve markedly, it's very challenging to accept these prices as being reasonable.
It is also worth noting that we have found 2 warning signs for HCI Group that you need to take into consideration.
You might be able to find a better investment than HCI Group. If you want a selection of possible candidates, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20x (but have proven they can grow earnings).
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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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