This Is One Cheap Life Insurance Company

I'm extending thanks to those of you willing to click on this article -- I know insurance companies aren't exactly the most exciting of businesses. Luckily, there's a reward here for your sacrifice: a look at a company trading significantly below book value that also pays out a healthy dividend.

Kansas City Life Insurance (Nasdaq: KCLI  ) is this surprisingly inexpensive company. The company, which sells life and annuity policies throughout the U.S., has paid out a fairly steady dividend over the course of the past 15 years and sports a current yield north of 3.5%.

Why have you never heard of this company? Well, frankly, it's a small company -- $350 million market cap -- that trades an average of just 14,000 shares per day. Also, how many investors out there are actively seeking out insurance companies? Be honest now … not many of you.

So we know the company can generate enough cash from operations to pay out a regular dividend, but what makes it so special otherwise? It's the investment portfolio and its assets.

Kansas City Life is trading for only 0.52 times its book value. Like most insurance companies, it carries a healthy cash position. Unlike most other insurance companies though, Kansas City Life has zero debt. Compare this to insurance giants Metlife (NYSE: MET  ) , Lincoln National (NYSE: LNC  ) or Primerica (NYSE: PRI  ) , which also trade at relatively inexpensive levels but have more debt than cash on hand and employ moderate leverage -- and you'll see why I think Kansas City Life could be a screaming value.

Perhaps the easiest to miss -- yet most important -- aspect of Kansas City Life is its investment portfolio. If you read the annual report too quickly you just may miss that the company has $110 million in unrealized net gains currently in its books! To put that into perspective, the company has the potential to report more than $9 in EPS just sitting on its investment portfolio.

You aren't going to get tech-like double-digit growth with a life insurance company like Kansas City Life, so get that notion out of your head. But considering that the company is trading at just 0.52 times book value, paying out a handsome dividend, is net cash positive, and has more than $9 in EPS sitting in its investment portfolios, I feel that this is a company that deserves a closer look.

Do you have a favorite company in the insurance sector that I haven't mentioned? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and consider adding Kansas City Life Insurance to My Watchlist.

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He would like to remind you not to forget about our friends in Japan who could still use a helping hand. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that's always at a premium but never costs a dime.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2011, at 4:08 PM, davidcali wrote:

    Check your facts.

    Primerica has ZERO debt and almost $5 Billion in liquidable capital, and generated over a half billion in net income last year with over $2.2 billion in revenue.

    In fact Primerica also maintains over six times the liquidable funds required by government regulations requiring insurance companies to maintain liquid reserves to pay out the face value of life policies.

    But don't take my word for it... you can easily view the appropriate documents at their investor relations web page.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2011, at 9:38 AM, bla879545 wrote:

    American National Insurance Company (Public, NASDAQ:ANAT) Reminds us of KCLI

  • Report this Comment On June 20, 2011, at 8:11 PM, Charbroil121 wrote:

    This company does look cheap, but its ROE is pretty weak--if you look at a comparison of its ROE to P/B on Ycharts (http://ycharts.com/companies/KCLI/return_on_equity#comp=pric..., you see that not only is its P/B consistently below 1, but your expected return stays around 6-8% regardless of the economic environment.

    Specifically, you can see that the average ROE remains around 6%, and the average P/B remains around 0.8, so after multiplying the ROE by 1/(P/B), you get an expected return of 7.5%--not terrible, but not particularly good by any standard.

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