Riding on a steady growth momentum, shares of American International Group Inc. (AIG) reached a new 52-week high at $56.09 on Aug 25. This global multi-line insurer’s shares rose about 6.1% since the company reported second-quarter 2014 results at the beginning of this month.
AIG also maintained its earnings streak in all the past 4 quarters, with an average beat of 13.5%. The strong price appreciation of this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock is fuelled by improved earnings performance and financial leverage, which paves the way for enhanced operating leverage and efficient capital deployment going forward.
Yesterday’s closing price represents a strong six-month return of about 14.0%, against 8.3% clocked by the S&P 500 index. Average volume of shares traded over the last three months stands at approximately 7,132K.
On Aug 4, AIG reported second-quarter 2014 operating earnings per share of $1.25, which surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.05 by 19%. Earnings were also 11.6% higher than the year-ago quarter figure of $1.12 a share.
Results reflected higher premiums, fees,assets under management (AUM.TO)and investment income. Moreover, lower catastrophe losses have been keeping a control of claims and benefits, which plummeted 23.8% in the second quarter. Alongside, the operations generated improved book value per share and return on equity (:ROE).
AIG’s consistent focus on streamlining its core operations over the past years are showing positive results now.The divestment of all major non-core assets, the last being International Lease Finance Corp. (:ILFC), at attractive valuations have further strengthened AIG’s capital position and liquidity. Strong cash flows and debt reduction also augur incremental shareholder wealth.
Although regulatory, market, competitive and operational risks remain for AIG, the company has come a long way in gaining investors’ confidence and raise optimism for long-term growth. This is reflected by the strong ratings and positive sentiment brewing for AIG in the market.
Some better-ranked insurersthat warrant a look include Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd. (ENH),Global Indemnity plc (GBLI) and Mercury General Corp. (MCY). All these stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).