Is RenaissanceRe (RNR) Overvalued Despite Its Buy Rating from Analysts?

RenaissanceRe's price surge today seems to be confirming the bullish analyst outlook on the stock. Ending the day at $206.37, RNR has posted 5.5% gains, pushing the valuation of the stock even higher. Might the stock be overvalued, despite its buy rating?

The most common valuation metric for stocks is the trailing price to earnings (P/E) ratio. RenaissanceRe has a P/E ratio of -53.0 based on its 12 month trailing earnings per share of $-3.9. Considering its future earnings estimates of $25.68 per share, the stock's forward P/E ratio is 8.0. In comparison, the average P/E ratio of the Financial Services sector is 13.34 and the average P/E ratio of the S&P 500 is 15.97.

RenaissanceRe's P/E ratio tells us how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of the company's earnings. The problem with this metric is that it doesn't take into account the expected growth in earnings of the stock. Sometimes elevated P/E ratios can be justified by equally elevated growth expectations.

We can solve this inconsistency by dividing the company's trailing P/E ratio by its five year earnings growth estimate, which in this case gives us a 0.36 Price to Earnings Growth (PEG) ratio. In RNR's case, the elevated P/E ratio is justified by future earnings growth estimates -- assuming those estimates turn out to be close to reality.

We can also compare the ratio of RenaissanceRe's market price to its book value, which gives us the price to book, or P/B ratio. A company's book value refers to its present liquidation value -- or what would be left if the company sold off all its assets and paid off all of its debts today. Importantly, the book value does not include intangible assets such as the value of its brand and the goodwill of its customers. RNR has a P/B ratio of 2.2, with any figure close to or below one indicating a potentially undervalued company.

A comparison of the share price versus company earnings and book value should be balanced by an analysis of the company's ability to pay its liabilities. One popular metric is the Quick Ratio, or Acid Test, which is the company's current assets minus its inventory and prepaid expenses divided by its current liabilities. RenaissanceRe's quick ratio is 1. Generally speaking, a quick ratio above 1 signifies that the company is able to meet its liabilities.

The final element of our analysis will touch on RenaissanceRe's ability to generate cash for the benefit of its shareholders or for reinvesting in the business. For this, we look at the company's levered free cash flow, which is the sum of all incoming and outgoing cash flows, including the servicing of current debt and liabilities. RenaissanceRe has a free cash flow of $1,234,815,000.00, which it uses to pay its shareholders a 0.8% dividend.

By most metrics, RenaissanceRe is an overvalued stock. So why are analysts giving it such a generous rating? It probably has to do with their perception of its strong growth potential, as represented by its low PEG ratio. For growth-oriented investors, RNR is represents an interesting opportunity despite its elevated valuation. They just need to be sure that the growth story will come true. We will continue to monitor the stock to see which thesis prevails.

The above analysis is intended for educational purposes only and was performed on the basis of publicly available data. It is not to be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Any buy, sell, or other recommendations mentioned in the article are direct quotations of consensus recommendations from the analysts covering the stock, and do not represent the opinions of Market Inference or its writers. Past performance, accounting data, and inferences about market position and corporate valuation are not reliable indicators of future price movements. Market Inference does not provide financial advice. Investors should conduct their own review and analysis of any company of interest before making an investment decision.