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Why Primerica, Inc.'s (NYSE:PRI) High P/E Ratio Isn't Necessarily A Bad Thing

Simply Wall St

The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at Primerica, Inc.'s (NYSE:PRI) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Primerica has a P/E ratio of 15.63, based on the last twelve months. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 6.4%.

View our latest analysis for Primerica

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Primerica:

P/E of 15.63 = $126.00 ÷ $8.06 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.

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

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. As you can see below Primerica has a P/E ratio that is fairly close for the average for the insurance industry, which is 15.5.

NYSE:PRI Price Estimation Relative to Market, October 25th 2019

That indicates that the market expects Primerica will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. I would further inform my view by checking insider buying and selling., among other things.

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. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

Primerica saw earnings per share decrease by 6.3% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 21% per year over the last five years.

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. 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 Primerica's P/E?

Primerica has net debt worth 23% 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 has a P/E of 15.6. That's below the average in the US market, which is 17.6. The debt levels are not a major concern, but the lack of EPS growth is likely weighing on sentiment.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine. 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.