U.S. Markets closed

Why Heritage Insurance Holdings, Inc.'s (NYSE:HRTG) High P/E Ratio Isn't Necessarily A Bad Thing

Simply Wall St

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 Heritage Insurance Holdings, Inc.'s (NYSE:HRTG), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, Heritage Insurance Holdings has a P/E ratio of 18.50. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 5.4%.

See our latest analysis for Heritage Insurance Holdings

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Heritage Insurance Holdings:

P/E of 18.50 = USD12.73 ÷ USD0.69 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each USD1 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.

Does Heritage Insurance Holdings Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (16.7) for companies in the insurance industry is lower than Heritage Insurance Holdings's P/E.

NYSE:HRTG Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 22nd 2020

That means that the market expects Heritage Insurance Holdings will outperform other companies in its industry. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Heritage Insurance Holdings saw earnings per share decrease by 4.2% last year. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 12% per year over the last five years. So you wouldn't expect a very high P/E.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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.

So What Does Heritage Insurance Holdings's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

With net cash of US$99m, Heritage Insurance Holdings has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 27% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Verdict On Heritage Insurance Holdings's P/E Ratio

Heritage Insurance Holdings trades on a P/E ratio of 18.5, which is fairly close to the US market average of 18.9. While the lack of recent growth is probably muting optimism, the relatively strong balance sheet will allow the company to weather a storm; so it isn't very surprising to see that it has a P/E ratio close to the market average.

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 visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.