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Don't Sell RSA Insurance Group plc (LON:RSA) Before You Read This

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The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we'll show how RSA Insurance Group plc's (LON:RSA) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. What is RSA Insurance Group's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 17.39. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying £17.39 for every £1 in prior year profit.

View our latest analysis for RSA Insurance Group

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 RSA Insurance Group:

P/E of 17.39 = £5.53 ÷ £0.32 (Based on the year to December 2018.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

RSA Insurance Group increased earnings per share by an impressive 21% over the last twelve months. And its annual EPS growth rate over 3 years is 66%. This could arguably justify a relatively high P/E ratio.

Does RSA Insurance Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

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 (16.5) for companies in the insurance industry is roughly the same as RSA Insurance Group's P/E.

LSE:RSA Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 3rd 2019

RSA Insurance Group's P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. If the company has better than average prospects, then the market might be underestimating it. Further research into factors such asmanagement tenure, could help you form your own view on whether that is likely.

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. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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.

RSA Insurance Group's Balance Sheet

RSA Insurance Group has net cash of UK£247m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.

The Bottom Line On RSA Insurance Group's P/E Ratio

RSA Insurance Group's P/E is 17.4 which is above average (16.1) in the GB market. Its strong balance sheet gives the company plenty of resources for extra growth, and it has already proven it can grow. Therefore it seems reasonable that the market would have relatively high expectations of the company

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

You might be able to find a better buy than RSA Insurance Group. 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.