On Jul 8, 2013, the shares of Assurant Inc. (AIZ) hit a 52-week high of $51.97. The momentum was driven by strong execution in its various segments as well as a favorable operating performance from the past several quarters. Assurant delivered earnings surprise in 3 of last 4 quarter with an average beat of 36.8%.
Assurant has a diverse product base and distribution platform with established presence in various niche markets, enabling it to generate sustained solid operating earnings.
The company maintained an adequate risk-adjusted capitalization, low debt-to-capital ratio and adequate interest coverage ratio.
Going forward, we expect Assurant’s Specialty line of business to benefit from growth in multi-housing loans and higher volume in lender-placed loan portfolios in the later half of 2013. Also, the Solutions line business will see higher top-line growth from increases in domestic as well as international businesses.
Moreover, the company has geared itself with product mix changes in the health line of business to position itself for the changed market as a result of Healthcare reform. We expect these initiatives will bring long-term earnings growth from this segment.
Assurant also boosts a strong balance sheet with efficient capital management. It supports the company to increase dividend payout and well as ensure steady buybacks which in turn drives bottom-line earnings growth.
Valuation looks attractive for Assurant. The shares are currently trading at a discount to the peer group average on a forward price-to-earnings basis and a slight discount on a price-to-book basis. The return on equity of is much higher than the peer group average. Also, the year-to-date return from the stock is 49.2%, above S&P’s return of 15.0%.
Assurant carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Multi-line insurers Cigna Corp. (CI), Enstar Group Limited. (ESGR), CNO Financial Group Inc. (CNO), among others, are worth taking a look. All these stocks carry Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).