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American Financial Displays Robust Growth Despite Cat Loss

On Apr 6, 2016, we issued an updated research report on American Financial Group Inc. AFG.

American Financial is poised to benefit from its impressive inorganic growth story and restructuring initiatives. Better industry fundamentals along with strong pricing and a higher renewal ratio should drive overall growth.

In addition, the company’s property and casualty (P&C) businesses witnessed an improvement in pricing in the fourth quarter of 2015. This marked the 17th consecutive quarter in which the company reported overall price strengthening. Going forward, the company intends to maintain satisfactory rates in P&C renewal pricing.

Moreover, loss cost trends remain stable and appear relatively benign across all the P&C lines. These strong positive trends should favor the company in the long run.

American Financial displays robust capital management. Traditionally, it has maintained moderate adjusted financial leverage of around 20%, with good cash flow and interest coverage ratio. In 2015, the company returned $304 million through dividends and share repurchases and has about 2.1 million shares remaining under its authorization.

The company expects to continue increasing excess capital through 2016 following the divestiture of its Run-off Long-Term Care Insurance business to HC2 Holdings, Inc. This sale is expected to generate $110 million in excess capital.

However, a low interest rate environment had a negative impact on the company’s investment income. Moreover, exposure to catastrophe losses remains a major concern resulting in earnings volatility.

With respect to quarterly results, the company’s earnings per share missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in the last reported quarter. However, this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) insurer (P&C) delivered positive surprises in two of the last four quarters.

For 2016 and 2017, the company’s earnings are projected to grow 3.25% to $5.62 and 3.86% to $5.83, respectively.

Stocks to Consider

Some better-ranked P&C insurers include Hallmark Financial Services Inc. HALL, Markel Corp. MKL and White Mountains Insurance Group, Ltd. WTM. Each of these stocks sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. blog">Click to get this free report >>

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report
MARKEL CORP (MKL): Free Stock Analysis Report
HALLMARK FINL (HALL): Free Stock Analysis Report
AMER FINL GROUP (AFG): Free Stock Analysis Report
WHITE MTN INS (WTM): Free Stock Analysis Report
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