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Should We Worry About Brown & Brown, Inc.'s (NYSE:BRO) P/E Ratio?

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 Brown & Brown, Inc.'s (NYSE:BRO) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Based on the last twelve months, Brown & Brown's P/E ratio is 30.39. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 3.3%.

View our latest analysis for Brown & Brown

How Do You Calculate Brown & Brown's P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Brown & Brown:

P/E of 30.39 = USD43.01 ÷ USD1.42 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that Brown & Brown has a higher P/E than the average (11.3) P/E for companies in the insurance industry.

NYSE:BRO Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 1st 2020

That means that the market expects Brown & Brown 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

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

It's great to see that Brown & Brown grew EPS by 14% in the last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 15% per year over the last five years. With that performance, you might expect an above average P/E ratio.

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

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. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

So What Does Brown & Brown's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Brown & Brown has net debt worth just 8.3% of its market capitalization. So it doesn't have as many options as it would with net cash, but its debt would not have much of an impact on its P/E ratio.

The Bottom Line On Brown & Brown's P/E Ratio

Brown & Brown has a P/E of 30.4. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 16.5. While the company does use modest debt, its recent earnings growth is very good. Therefore, it's not particularly surprising that it has a above average P/E ratio.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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 report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Brown & Brown. 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.

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