On Jul 5, 2013, shares of CIGNA Corp. ( CI) hit a 52-week high of $73.95. The momentum was driven by the company’s favorable operating results over the past many quarters, a differentiated growth strategy and the strength of its diverse portfolio of businesses are other factors.
Cigna is uniquely poised for long term growth given its exposure to strong growth areas, relative protection from healthcare reform and diversification into a number of products.
Cigna is performing well in its business segments. In commercial health care, the company has continuously grown its target markets by achieving strong customer retention, expanding its existing customer relationships and adding new customers.
In the Global Supplemental Benefits business, Cigna delivered a healthy increase in revenue and earnings, reflecting solid customer growth, effective cost management and contributions from recent acquisitions.
We also view Cigna's more significant International exposure favorably and see the company as having lower direct exposure to key health reform risks given its limited exposure to the Commercial market.
Cigna is also poised for significant earnings accretion in 2013 from its recent acquisition of HealthSpring as well as a strategic decision on its captive pharmacy Benefits Management business.
Additionally we are impressed with the company’s recent transaction to exit from the Run-Off Reinsurance segment. This step will reduce the company’s future earnings volatility.
Cigna has also been delivering positive earnings surprise for past many quarters. For the second quarter the Zacks Consensus Estimate for EPS stands at $1.59, reflecting 4.6% year over year increase. The long term earnings growth is expected to be 11.3%.
Valuation for Cigna looks reasonable. The shares are trading in-line with the peer group average on a forward price-to-earnings basis and at premium on a price-to-book basis with return on equity higher than the peer group average. The 1-year return from the stock came in at 73.8%, much above the S&P’s return of 20.5%.
Cigna carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Multi-line insurers Assured Guaranty Ltd. ( AGO), Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. ( HIG), FBL Financial Group Inc. ( FFG) all carry Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and are worth considering.
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