Torchmark Corporation’s TMK fourth-quarter 2018 net operating income of $1.56 per share came in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate. The bottom line, however, improved 25.8% year over year on the back of higher premiums from the Life and Health segments. Lower share count on continuous buybacks also drove the upside.
Including realized loss on investments of 4 cents, redemption of debt of 8 cents and tax reform adjustment of 1 cent, net income plunged to $1.45 per share from $8.71 per share in the year-ago quarter.
Behind the Headlines
Torchmark reported total premium revenues of $857.16 million, up 4% year over year. This upside was primarily driven by higher premiums from Life and Health Insurance businesses.
Net investment income improved 5% year over year to $224.2 million.
The company’s operating revenues of $1.1 billion grew 4% from the year-ago quarter. This top-line improvement was driven by growth in Life and Health Insurance premiums along with higher net investment income. However, the top line missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 0.8%.
Excess investment income, a measure of profitability, increased 7% year over year to $61.7 million.
Torchmark’s total insurance underwriting income grew 5% year over year to $228.6 million. Improvement in Life and Health Insurance underwriting margins resulted in this uptrend. However, higher administrative expenses partially offset this uptick.
Administrative expenses increased 4.7% year over year to $57.4 million.
Total benefits and expenses rose 2.4% year over year to $861 million.
Torchmark Corporation Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise
Torchmark Corporation Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise | Torchmark Corporation Quote
Full Year Highlights
Net operating income of $6.13 per share missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a cent and increased 27.2% over 2017.
Operating revenues of $4.3 billion grew 4.2% from the year-ago quarter. However, the top line missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 0.1%.
Premium revenues at Torchmark’s Life Insurance operations increased 3% year over year to $600.2 million, banking on higher premiums written by distribution channels like American Income Agency, Global Life Direct Response and LNL Agency. While American Income Agency grew 7%, Global Life Direct Response and LNL Agency rose 1% each. Life Insurance underwriting income improved 5% year over year to $167.7 million. Net sales at the life insurance segment were 2% lower on a year-over-year basis.
Health Insurance premium revenues rose 5% year over year to $256.9 million while underwriting income of $58.2 million increased 6% year over year. Net health sales grew 9% year over year.
Annuity underwriting margins remained flat year over year at $2.7 million.
Shareholders’ equity as of Dec 31, 2018 increased 13.1% year over year to $5.4 billion.
Torchmark reported book value per share (excluding net unrealized gains on fixed maturities) of $44.32, up 11.4% year over year.
As of Dec 31, 2018, operating return on equity (excluding net unrealized gains on fixed maturities) was 14.6%, up 30 basis points year over year.
Share Repurchase and Dividend Update
In 2018, Torchmark repurchased 4.4 million shares for a total cost of $372 million.
The company announced a dividend of 16 cents per share in the reported quarter, reflecting an increase of 6.7% from the year-ago period.
For 2019, Torchmark tightened its net operating income guidance range to $6.50 and $6.70 per share from the earlier projection of $6.45 to $6.75.
Torchmark currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Performance of Other Insurers
Among other insurance industry players who have reported fourth-quarter earnings so far, the bottom line of Aflac Incorporated AFL and Reinsurance Group of America Inc. RGA beat their respective Zacks Consensus Estimate. However, Unum Group UNM lagged estimates in the fourth quarter.
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