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Should We Worry About Medibank Private Limited's (ASX:MPL) 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 apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Medibank Private Limited's (ASX:MPL), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Medibank Private has a price to earnings ratio of 20.20, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay A$20.20 for every A$1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Medibank Private

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 Medibank Private:

P/E of 20.20 = A$3.21 ÷ A$0.16 (Based on the year to June 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. 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 Medibank Private's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. As you can see below Medibank Private has a P/E ratio that is fairly close for the average for the insurance industry, which is 19.1.

ASX:MPL Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 3rd 2020

That indicates that the market expects Medibank Private will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. I would further inform my view by checking insider buying and selling., among other things.

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. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Medibank Private increased earnings per share by 3.2% last year. And earnings per share have improved by 27% annually, 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. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

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.

Medibank Private's Balance Sheet

With net cash of AU$2.8b, Medibank Private has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 32% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Bottom Line On Medibank Private's P/E Ratio

Medibank Private trades on a P/E ratio of 20.2, which is above its market average of 18.7. EPS was up modestly better over the last twelve months. And the healthy balance sheet means the company can sustain growth while the P/E suggests shareholders think it will.

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 Medibank Private. 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.