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Here's How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand Primerica, Inc. (NYSE:PRI)

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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Primerica, Inc.'s (NYSE:PRI) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Primerica has a P/E ratio of 16.51. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $16.51 for every $1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for Primerica

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Primerica:

P/E of 16.51 = $127.78 ÷ $7.74 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 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 Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. 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. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Primerica shrunk earnings per share by 3.2% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 22% per year over the last five years.

Does Primerica Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Primerica has a P/E ratio that is roughly in line with the insurance industry average (17.6).

NYSE:PRI Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 9th 2019

That indicates that the market expects Primerica will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. Checking factors such as the tenure of the board and management could help you form your own view on if that will happen.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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.

How Does Primerica's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Primerica has net debt worth 22% of its market capitalization. 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 Verdict On Primerica's P/E Ratio

Primerica trades on a P/E ratio of 16.5, which is below the US market average of 18.1. The debt levels are not a major concern, but the lack of EPS growth is likely weighing on sentiment.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Primerica. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.