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Should You Retain American Financial (AFG) in Your Portfolio?

American Financial Group, Inc. AFG has been benefiting from renewal rate increases and new business opportunities, growth in lender services and prudent capital deployment.

Growth Projections

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 earnings per share is pegged at $9.83, indicating a year-over-year increase of 16.4%.

Earnings Surprise History

American Financial has a decent earnings surprise history. It beat estimates in each of the last four quarters, with the average being 47.70%.

Estimate Revision

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 has moved 7.1% north in the past seven days. This should instill investors' confidence in the stock.

Zacks Rank & Price Performance

American Financial currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). In the past year, the stock has rallied 66.9%, outperforming the industry’s increase of 20.1%.

Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

Style Score

The company has a favorable VGM Score of B. VGM Score helps to identify stocks with the most attractive value, best growth and the most promising momentum.

Business Tailwinds

The company’s core business, Property and Casualty Insurance witnessed significant growth in the first nine months of 2021 on the back of solid performances across Property and Transportation, Specialty Casualty, and Specialty Financial lines of business.

Premiums in Property and transportation should benefit from higher premiums in the crop insurance business and rate increases as well as higher premiums in the transportation businesses, combined with strong renewals.

Specialty casualty premiums continue to gain from significant renewal rate increases and new business opportunities that contributed to higher premiums in the excess and surplus lines businesses and renewal rate increases. Strong account retention and new business opportunities also contributed to premium growth in the targeted markets businesses.

The Specialty financial business continues to gain from growth in the lender services, fidelity and surety businesses.

Following solid results for the first nine months of 2021, American Financial expects core net operating earnings in 2021 in the bracket of $10.10 to $10.70, which implies an increase from the earlier guidance of $8.40 to $9.20 per share. This upped guidance reflects an assumed annualized return of around 10% on alternative investments in the fourth quarter of 2021, which would produce a return of nearly 20% on $1.7 billion of alternative investments for the year in 2021.

American Financial raised its guidance for the current year with respect to certain metrics.

Net written premiums in the Specialty Property and Casualty Insurance are expected to be 11% to 14% higher than $5 billion reported in 2020. Growth in net written premiums excluding workers' compensation is now expected to be in the range of 13% to 17%, up from the earlier estimated range of 12% to 16%.
Of this, the company continues to expect net written premiums to grow 15-19% at Property & Transportation.

Net written premiums at Specialty Casualty are expected to grow 8% to 12% higher than 2020 results, while at Specialty Financial it is expected to grow 10-14%, based on projected premium growth in the fidelity and crime and surety businesses.

The P&C insurer expects 2021 combined ratio between 86% and 88% for the Specialty Property and Casualty Group, which improved 2 points at the midpoint of the previous range. For Property and Transportation Group, it is expected in the range of 86% to 88%. For Specialty Casualty, the combined ratio is expected between 85% and 87%. The guidance assumes continued strong renewal pricing in E&S excess liability and several other longer-tail liability businesses. For Specialty Financial, the combined ratio is projected in the range of 84% to 86%, reflecting strong underwriting results for the first nine months of 2021.

Based on the results through the end of September, it projects overall property and casualty renewal pricing in 2021 to be up 9% to 11%, which remained unchanged from the last quarter.

Backed by its operating strength, the property and casualty insurer has a solid track record of increasing dividends for 15 straight years. It currently yields 1.6%, which is higher than the industry average of 0.3%. It makes the stock an attractive pick for yield-seeking investors.

The company has been paying out special dividends since 2012. With the latest approval in November 2021, the company paid out 15 special dividends in 10 years. This latest approval marks four special dividends approved by the board so far in 2021. The robust operating profitability at the P&C segment and effective capital management should continue to support shareholder returns.

Stocks to Consider

Some better-ranked stocks from the same space include Cincinnati Financial Corporation CINF, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) and Fidelity National Financial, Inc. FNF, each sporting a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Cincinnati Financial surpassed estimates in each of the last four quarters, the average earnings surprise being 40.05%.

The bottom line of Berkshire Hathaway surpassed estimates in two of the last four quarters and missed in the other two, the average being 5.53%.

Fidelity National’s earnings surpassed estimates in each of the last four quarters, the average being 38.18%.

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