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PICO Holdings, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:PICO) Share Price Not Quite Adding Up

·3 min read

When close to half the companies in the United States have price-to-earnings ratios (or "P/E's") below 20x, you may consider PICO Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:PICO) as a stock to avoid entirely with its 38.6x P/E ratio. However, the P/E might be quite high for a reason and it requires further investigation to determine if it's justified.

For instance, PICO Holdings' receding earnings in recent times would have to be some food for thought. One possibility is that the P/E is high because investors think the company will still do enough to outperform the broader market in the near future. If not, then existing shareholders may be quite nervous about the viability of the share price.

Check out our latest analysis for PICO Holdings

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Want the full picture on earnings, revenue and cash flow for the company? Then our free report on PICO Holdings will help you shine a light on its historical performance.

Is There Enough Growth For PICO Holdings?

The only time you'd be truly comfortable seeing a P/E as steep as PICO Holdings' is when the company's growth is on track to outshine the market decidedly.

Taking a look back first, the company's earnings per share growth last year wasn't something to get excited about as it posted a disappointing decline of 32%. At least EPS has managed not to go completely backwards from three years ago in aggregate, thanks to the earlier period of growth. Accordingly, shareholders probably wouldn't have been overly satisfied with the unstable medium-term growth rates.

Comparing that to the market, which is predicted to deliver 15% growth in the next 12 months, the company's momentum is weaker based on recent medium-term annualised earnings results.

With this information, we find it concerning that PICO Holdings is trading at a P/E higher than the market. Apparently many investors in the company are way more bullish than recent times would indicate and aren't willing to let go of their stock at any price. There's a good chance existing shareholders are setting themselves up for future disappointment if the P/E falls to levels more in line with recent growth rates.

The Final Word

Generally, our preference is to limit the use of the price-to-earnings ratio to establishing what the market thinks about the overall health of a company.

We've established that PICO Holdings currently trades on a much higher than expected P/E since its recent three-year growth is lower than the wider market forecast. Right now we are increasingly uncomfortable with the high P/E as this earnings performance isn't likely 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.

Many other vital risk factors can be found on the company's balance sheet. Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis for PICO Holdings with six simple checks on some of these key factors.

You might be able to find a better investment than PICO Holdings. 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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.