Why Aegon N.V.’s (AMS:AGN) High P/E Ratio Isn’t Necessarily A Bad Thing

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 Aegon N.V.’s (AMS:AGN) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Aegon has a price to earnings ratio of 14.88, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 6.7%.

Check out our latest analysis for Aegon

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Aegon:

P/E of 14.88 = €4.32 ÷ €0.29 (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

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 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

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Aegon saw earnings per share decrease by 74% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 25% per year over the last five years.

How Does Aegon’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (12.3) for companies in the insurance industry is lower than Aegon’s P/E.

ENXTAM:AGN Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 24th 2019
ENXTAM:AGN Price Estimation Relative to Market, March 24th 2019

That means that the market expects Aegon will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet

The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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.

How Does Aegon’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Aegon’s net debt is 55% of its market cap. This is a reasonably significant level of debt — all else being equal you’d expect a much lower P/E than if it had net cash.

The Verdict On Aegon’s P/E Ratio

Aegon’s P/E is 14.9 which is about average (15.9) in the NL market. With relatively high debt, and no earnings per share growth over twelve months, the P/E suggests that many have an expectation that company will find some growth.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

You might be able to find a better buy than Aegon. 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.