On Mar 15, we upgraded XL Group plc (XL - Free Report) to Outperform based on its strong fourth-quarter performance and continued efforts to enhance shareholder value. This property and casualty insurer presently carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).
Why the Upgrade?
XL Group’s fourth-quarter 2012 earnings came in at 13 cents, well above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of 35 cents per share. Revenues increased 1.9% from the year-ago period to $89.5 million, easily surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.7 billion. Over the past four quarters, XL Group has delivered an average surprise of 54.2%.
XL Group witnessed upward estimate revisions following its earnings release. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 inched up 4.1% to $2.54 as 4 of 16 estimates were revised higher over the last 30 days.
Why the strong positive bias on the company? With a strong international exposure and a diversified suite of product offering, we believe that the company is well positioned to write higher premiums fueling top-line growth, going forward.
The board of directors approved a $850 million share repurchase program along with a 27% hike in its quarterly dividend, which will further boost the bottom line.
The long-term expected earnings growth rate for this stock is 9.4%.
Other Stocks to Consider
Apart from XL Group, other stocks in the property and casualty sector that are currently performing well include Arch Capital Group Ltd. (ACGL - Free Report) , Cincinnati Financial Corp. (CINF - Free Report) and EMC Insurance Group Inc. . All these companies carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).