With a price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 25x Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (NYSE:MMC) may be sending very bearish signals at the moment, given that almost half of all companies in the United States have P/E ratios under 14x and even P/E's lower than 8x are not unusual. Although, it's not wise to just take the P/E at face value as there may be an explanation why it's so lofty.
Recent times have been advantageous for Marsh & McLennan Companies as its earnings have been rising faster than most other companies. It seems that many are expecting the strong earnings performance to persist, which has raised the P/E. If not, then existing shareholders might be a little nervous about the viability of the share price.
If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report on Marsh & McLennan Companies.
How Is Marsh & McLennan Companies' Growth Trending?
Marsh & McLennan Companies' P/E ratio would be typical for a company that's expected to deliver very strong growth, and importantly, perform much better than the market.
If we review the last year of earnings growth, the company posted a terrific increase of 26%. The latest three year period has also seen an excellent 130% overall rise in EPS, aided by its short-term performance. So we can start by confirming that the company has done a great job of growing earnings over that time.
Shifting to the future, estimates from the analysts covering the company suggest earnings should grow by 5.5% per annum over the next three years. That's shaping up to be materially lower than the 9.0% per annum growth forecast for the broader market.
In light of this, it's alarming that Marsh & McLennan Companies' P/E sits above the majority of other companies. It seems most investors are hoping for a turnaround in the company's business prospects, but the analyst cohort is not so confident this will happen. There's a good chance these shareholders are setting themselves up for future disappointment if the P/E falls to levels more in line with the growth outlook.
The Final Word
While the price-to-earnings ratio shouldn't be the defining factor in whether you buy a stock or not, it's quite a capable barometer of earnings expectations.
Our examination of Marsh & McLennan Companies' analyst forecasts revealed that its inferior earnings outlook isn't impacting its high P/E anywhere near as much as we would have predicted. When we see a weak earnings outlook with slower than market growth, we suspect the share price is at risk of declining, sending the high P/E lower. This places shareholders' investments at significant risk and potential investors in danger of paying an excessive premium.
Plus, you should also learn about this 1 warning sign we've spotted with Marsh & McLennan Companies.
It's important to make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20x).
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.
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