We are upgrading our recommendation on CNO Financial (CNO) to Outperform based on the hike in its buyback program and prospects of significant capital deployment in 2013. The latest recapitalization plan has also improved the capital structure and debt maturity profile. It is also expected to augment the bottom line and ROE.
However, high financial leverage and constantly deteriorating Bankers Life segment results are the downsides. The company's third-quarter earnings surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate and the year-ago numbers on the back of favorable trends in annuity spreads, improved top line and benefit ratios and better investment results.
Improved credit ratings, strong investment portfolio and declining expenses are the other positives. Although underwriting and pricing challenges remain primary concerns, increasing new business volume and cost containment measures are expected to support the bottom line in the long run.
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