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Should You Be Tempted To Sell AIA Group Limited (HKG:1299) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

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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 apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to AIA Group Limited's (HKG:1299), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, AIA Group has a P/E ratio of 43.69. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 2.3%.

View our latest analysis for AIA Group

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

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price (in reporting currency) ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for AIA Group:

P/E of 43.69 = $10.61 (Note: this is the share price in the reporting currency, namely, USD ) ÷ $0.24 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each HK$1 of company 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.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

AIA Group saw earnings per share decrease by 50% last year. But over the longer term (3 years), earnings per share have increased by 1.7%.

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

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that AIA Group has a significantly higher P/E than the average (14.3) P/E for companies in the insurance industry.

SEHK:1299 Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 2nd 2019

That means that the market expects AIA Group will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

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

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

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 AIA Group's P/E?

With net cash of US$61b, AIA Group has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 50% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Bottom Line On AIA Group's P/E Ratio

AIA Group trades on a P/E ratio of 43.7, which is multiples above the HK market average of 12. The recent drop in earnings per share might keep value investors away, but the healthy balance sheet means the company retains potential for future growth. If fails to eventuate, the current high P/E could prove to be temporary, as the share price falls.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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.

But note: AIA Group may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.