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Here's What Principal Financial Group, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:PFG) P/E Ratio Is Telling Us

Simply Wall St

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll show how you can use Principal Financial Group, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:PFG) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Principal Financial Group has a P/E ratio of 10.64. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $10.64 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

See our latest analysis for Principal Financial Group

How Do You Calculate Principal Financial Group's P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Principal Financial Group:

P/E of 10.64 = $59.37 ÷ $5.58 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

Does Principal Financial Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that Principal Financial Group has a lower P/E than the average (17.5) P/E for companies in the insurance industry.

NasdaqGS:PFG Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 22nd 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Principal Financial Group shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Since the market seems unimpressed with Principal Financial Group, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Principal Financial Group's earnings per share fell by 32% in the last twelve months. But EPS is up 11% over the last 5 years.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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).

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

How Does Principal Financial Group's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Principal Financial Group has net debt worth just 1.9% of its market capitalization. The market might award it a higher P/E ratio if it had net cash, but its unlikely this low level of net borrowing is having a big impact on the P/E multiple.

The Verdict On Principal Financial Group's P/E Ratio

Principal Financial Group trades on a P/E ratio of 10.6, which is below the US market average of 17.9. With only modest debt, it's likely the lack of EPS growth at least partially explains the pessimism implied by the P/E ratio.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

You might be able to find a better buy than Principal Financial Group. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.