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W.R. Berkley (WRB) Board Approves Special Cash Dividend

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W.R. Berkley Corporation (WRB - Free Report) board of directors approved a special cash dividend of 50 cents per share. This, along with the special dividend paid in January this year, will take the total payout to $1 so far this year.

Concurrently, the board also approved a quarterly cash dividend of 11 cents. Shareholders, as of the close of business on Sep 25, 2023, will receive both the special dividend and quarterly dividend on Oct 4, 2023.

W.R. Berkley boasts a solid balance sheet with sufficient liquidity and strong cash flows. Its strong capital position enables the nation’s largest commercial lines property casualty insurance provider deploy capital via share repurchases, special dividends and dividend hikes that enhance shareholders' value. Notably, in June 2023, WRB’s board approved a 10% hike in its quarterly dividend, marking the 18th consecutive increase since 2005. Its dividend yield of 0.7% is higher than the industry average of 0.3%.

Apart from dividends, the insurer resorts to regular share buyback as another way to enhance shareholder value. The board has increased the share repurchase authorization to 15 million shares.  

Better pricing, expansion of international business, reserving discipline, a solid balance sheet and prudent capital management policy should help this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) maintain the streak of hiking dividends and paying special dividends. These also reflect the insurer’s operational expertise.  The insurer will dish out $772 million for special, regular quarterly cash dividends and share buybacks in 2023. WRB targets a return on equity of 15% over the long term.

Shares of WRB have lost 12.5% year to date, against the industry’s 13.1% increase. Solid insurance business, strong international business and a sturdy financial position continue to drive shares.


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Other Shareholder-Friendly Moves in the Same Space

First American Financial Corporation’s (FAF - Free Report) board of directors approved a 2% hike in its quarterly dividend to return more profits to stockholders. The insurer will pay out 53 cents per share compared with 52 cents per share paid in May 2023.

The dividend hike and increase in repurchase authorization reflect the insurer’s strong financial condition, liquidity and longstanding commitment to return capital to stockholders. First American enjoys a strong liquidity position, which enables it to enhance operating leverage. Its strong liquidity not only mitigates balance sheet risks but also paves the way for accelerated capital deployment.

American Financial Group’s (AFG - Free Report) board of directors approved a 12.7% rise in dividends. Commencing from October 2023, the increased dividend will be disbursed quarterly at a rate of 71 cents per share of common stock.

American Financial maintains a strong financial foundation, characterized by a moderate adjusted financial leverage around 20%. With a robust cash flow and favorable interest coverage ratio, the company is well-positioned to support its dividend policy. As of Jun 30, 2023, the company's excess capital amounted to approximately $700 million, which includes a substantial cash and investment reserve of about $550 million. Additionally, the company boasts a solid credit rating.

Stock to Consider

A top-ranked stock from the insurance space is Arch Capital Group (ACGL - Free Report) , sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Arch Capital’s earnings surpassed estimates in all the last four quarters, the average beat being 26.83%. The stock has gained 2.9% quarter to date.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for ACGL’s 2023 and 2024 earnings indicates a 38.2% and 10.4% year-over-year increase, respectively. The expected long-term earnings growth is 10%. The consensus estimate for 2023 and 2024 has moved up 2.3% and 2.5%, respectively, in the past 30 days.

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