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In its concerted effort to enhance shareholders’ value, the board of directors of Unum Group (UNM - Analyst Report) approved a new buyback program authorizing the company to repurchase up to $750 million worth of shares through Jun 12, 2015.

The recent approval replaces the earlier program approved in Jul 2012 and scheduled to expire on Jan 31, 2014. During the third quarter, Unum Group repurchased 2.5 million shares for $75 million and was left with 261.1 million shares under its earlier buyback authorization.

The new authorization by Unum Group is duly supported by the company’s solid financial position, with cash and cash equivalents of $63 million at third quarter-end and cash from operations in the first nine months amounting to $709.5 million. Retained earnings also stood solid at $7.9 billion. A sustained solid operational performance continues to cushion Unum Group’s sturdy financial position. The company delivered earnings surprises in the last 4 quarters with an average beat of 3.5%.

Several insurers are in the news presently for approving share repurchase authorizations, in an intention to boost the bottom line and enhance shareholders’ value. While ACE Ltd. (ACE - Analyst Report) is authorized to repurchase $2 billion worth of shares through Dec 31, 2014, Montpelier Re Holdings Ltd. (MRH - Analyst Report) increased its share buyback authorization by $150 million. The board of directors of Assurant Inc. (AIZ - Analyst Report) also approved an increase of $600 million of share repurchase.

With respect to Unum Group, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 and 2014 have remained unchanged at $3.30 and $3.51, respectively, over the last 30 days. With the approval of the new buyback authorization, we expect analysts to raise their estimates, thereby exerting upward pressure on the Zacks Rank. Unum Group presently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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