Should You Be Tempted To Sell Hastings Group Holdings plc (LON:HSTG) Because Of Its P/E Ratio?

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Hastings Group Holdings plc’s (LON:HSTG), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Hastings Group Holdings has a P/E ratio of 17.40, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay £17.40 for every £1 in trailing yearly profits.

See our latest analysis for Hastings Group Holdings

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 Hastings Group Holdings:

P/E of 17.40 = £1.840 ÷ £0.106 (Based on the year to December 2019.)

(Note: the above calculation results may not be precise due to rounding.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each £1 the company has earned over the last year. That isn’t necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

Does Hastings Group Holdings Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Hastings Group Holdings has a higher P/E than the average (10.6) P/E for companies in the insurance industry.

LSE:HSTG Price Estimation Relative to Market June 1st 2020
LSE:HSTG Price Estimation Relative to Market June 1st 2020

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Hastings Group Holdings shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. 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

When earnings fall, the ‘E’ decreases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

Hastings Group Holdings’s earnings per share fell by 47% in the last twelve months. And over the longer term (3 years) earnings per share have decreased 3.9% annually. This growth rate might warrant a low 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. 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.

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.

So What Does Hastings Group Holdings’s Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Hastings Group Holdings’s net debt is 15% of its market cap. That’s enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you’re comparing it to companies without debt.

The Bottom Line On Hastings Group Holdings’s P/E Ratio

Hastings Group Holdings has a P/E of 17.4. That’s higher than the average in its market, which is 14.6. With modest debt but no EPS growth in the last year, it’s fair to say the P/E implies some optimism about future earnings, from the market.

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 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 Hastings Group Holdings. 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).

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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.