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Should We Worry About CorVel Corporation's (NASDAQ:CRVL) P/E Ratio?

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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 look at CorVel Corporation's (NASDAQ:CRVL) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, CorVel has a P/E ratio of 31.41. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 3.2%.

See our latest analysis for CorVel

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for CorVel:

P/E of 31.41 = $72.98 ÷ $2.32 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

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

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

It's nice to see that CorVel grew EPS by a stonking 26% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 8.0%. I'd therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.

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

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that CorVel has a higher P/E than the average (20.7) P/E for companies in the healthcare industry.

NasdaqGS:CRVL Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 13th 2019

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that CorVel shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

CorVel's Balance Sheet

CorVel has net cash of US$96m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.

The Bottom Line On CorVel's P/E Ratio

CorVel trades on a P/E ratio of 31.4, which is above the US market average of 18. With cash in the bank the company has plenty of growth options -- and it is already on the right track. Therefore it seems reasonable that the market would have relatively high expectations of the company

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. We don't have analyst forecasts, but you might want to assess this data-rich visualization of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

You might be able to find a better buy than CorVel. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.