To the annoyance of some shareholders, NMC Health (LON:NMC) shares are down a considerable 41% in the last month. That drop has capped off a tough year for shareholders, with the share price down 59% in that time.
All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more attractive to potential investors. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. So, on certain occasions, long term focussed investors try to take advantage of pessimistic expectations to buy shares at a better price. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors’ expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
How Does NMC Health’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
NMC Health’s P/E of 10.39 indicates relatively low sentiment towards the stock. If you look at the image below, you can see NMC Health has a lower P/E than the average (22.6) in the healthcare industry classification.
Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that NMC Health shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. If earnings are growing quickly, then the ‘E’ in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. 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.
NMC Health increased earnings per share by an impressive 24% over the last twelve months. And earnings per share have improved by 26% annually, over the last five years. With that performance, you might expect an above average P/E ratio.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
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. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on 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.
Is Debt Impacting NMC Health’s P/E?
NMC Health has net debt worth 54% of its market capitalization. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you should absolutely keep in mind it has significant borrowings.
The Verdict On NMC Health’s P/E Ratio
NMC Health’s P/E is 10.4 which is below average (18.0) in the GB market. The company has a meaningful amount of debt on the balance sheet, but that should not eclipse the solid earnings growth. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become significantly less optimistic about NMC Health over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 17.5 back then to 10.4 today. For those who don’t like to trade against momentum, that could be a warning sign, but a contrarian investor might want to take a closer look.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. 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.
You might be able to find a better buy than NMC Health. 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).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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