AIG Accentuates the International

Although most people just call it AIG (NYSE: AIG  ) , the company's full name is American International Group. This reasonably well-known insurance company actually does a significant percentage of its business outside U.S. borders. When you also consider that it's a well-diversified and well-run company, AIG begins to look like an interesting investment idea.

The company once again delivered solid quarterly performance. Overall operating earnings rose about 27% from last year, though some of that was helped by an accounting change and favorable reserve development.

In the general insurance business, premiums rose 9% overall, with growth in foreign premiums in excess of 12%. AIG also posted a better combined ratio and loss ratio, and saw overall segment earnings climb about 44%. In the life business, the themes were similar, though more pronounced. Overall performance wasn't as strong (earnings up about 10%), but here again, foreign results were better than domestic.

The way this Fool sees it, AIG is cheap. Too cheap. The stock price isn't too far from where it cratered in the wake of a major scandal, yet the company has largely moved on with no lasting damage. What's more, while AIG may not be able to match the growth that reinsurers like RenaissanceRe (NYSE: RNR  ) or XL Capital (NYSE: XL  ) will show this year (assuming no bad storms/catastrophes), it offers a more stable business platform that's less vulnerable to repetitive one-time events.

Moreover, there's ongoing international growth opportunity. Not only can AIG penetrate mature/established markets as regulatory and government hurdles fall, but it also has a good shot at emerging markets. Simply put, the richer you get, the more you have to lose, and the more interest you have in insuring what you own.

Quality companies rarely trade on the cheap without a glaringly obvious reason. I certainly won't commit myself to purchasing these shares for my own account, but I can honestly say they're near the top of my watch list for new money.

For more reassuring Foolishness:

Find more great stocks trading at ludicrously low prices with a free 30-day trial toMotley Fool Inside Value.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).


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