Here’s How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand Primerica, Inc. (NYSE:PRI)

Today, we’ll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We’ll show how you can use Primerica, Inc.’s (NYSE:PRI) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. What is Primerica’s P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 15.7. In other words, at today’s prices, investors are paying $15.7 for every $1 in prior year profit.

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View our latest analysis for Primerica

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Primerica:

P/E of 15.7 = $121.51 ÷ $7.74 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings 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 Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. 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. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others — and that may attract buyers.

Primerica’s earnings per share fell by 3.2% in the last twelve months. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 22%.

How Does Primerica’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. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (16.7) for companies in the insurance industry is roughly the same as Primerica’s P/E.

NYSE:PRI Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 17th 2019
NYSE:PRI Price Estimation Relative to Market, May 17th 2019

Its P/E ratio suggests that Primerica shareholders think that in the future it will perform about the same as other companies in its industry classification. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. I inform my view byby checking management tenure and remuneration, among other things.

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. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

Primerica’s Balance Sheet

Net debt totals 24% of Primerica’s market cap. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.

The Verdict On Primerica’s P/E Ratio

Primerica trades on a P/E ratio of 15.7, which is below the US market average of 17.9. With only modest debt, it’s likely the lack of EPS growth at least partially explains the pessimism implied by the P/E ratio.

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 Primerica. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.