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Aon plc (AON) Poised for Growth; Forex Volatility a Drag

On May 16, 2016, we issued an updated research report on Aon plc AON.

In the first-quarter 2016, this insurance broker’s earnings outperformed the Zacks Consensus Estimate. A decline in total operating expense and a lower share count resulting from Aon's share repurchases during the quarter contributed to the earnings beat. However, earnings deteriorated from the prior-year quarter.

Aon has been divesting non-core operations to further increase its operating strength. To that end, the company divested a business each in its Risk and HR Solutions segments in the first quarter. This led to a pre-tax gain of $35 million during the quarter. Divestitures of such nature prove to be profitable and enable the company to drive operating leverage. In addition, decrease in operating expenses has aided in bottom-line growth.

Aon remains focused in investing in innovative solutions, which in turn is expected to generate higher cash flows in the long term. Free cash flow generation helps the company to implement efficient capital management strategies that boost shareholder confidence in the stock. The company anticipates achieving its goal of free cash flow generation worth at least $2.4 billion in 2017.

With respect to buybacks, the company spent nearly $750 million to buy back 7.7 million shares in the first quarter. Also, on Apr 18, 2016, the board of directors of the company approved a 10% increase in its quarterly dividend. Thus, the company displays balance sheet strength, resulting in  efficient capital management and the securing of investors’ attention.

However, exposure to foreign currency fluctuations has adversely affected the company’s earnings. Moreover, a high financial leverage has increased the company’s borrowing costs and financial risk, thereby making additional borrowing expensive going forward.

Stocks to Consider

Currently Aon carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks from the same industry include Hannover Rück SE HVRRY, Cincinnati Financial Corp. CINF and Markel Corp. MKL. While Hannover Rück holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), both Cincinnati Financial and Markel Corp. sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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AON PLC (AON): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
HANNOVER RUECKV (HVRRY): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CINCINNATI FINL (CINF): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
MARKEL CORP (MKL): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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