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This Overlooked Insurance Stock Could Get a Boost in a Recession

By Brian Withers and Toby Bordelon – Oct 3, 2021 at 10:30AM

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Sometimes solid companies fall out of favor with the market.

Holding company Markel (MKL 0.68%) owns a solid portfolio of insurance and investment operations. It has lagged the market over the last few years as investors have gravitated toward tech stocks and other more exciting opportunities.

In this video from "The 5" on Motley Fool Live, recorded on Sept. 23, Fool.com contributors Brian Withers and Toby Bordelon discuss why this "boring" stock is worth holding onto, and what could trigger a comeback.

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Brian Withers: Let's talk about maybe a stock that's trailing the market over the past year or two, but you still have confidence in the stock for the long term. Toby, you've been pitching this one for the last couple of days on the show.

Toby Bordelon: I have. I'm not entirely sure why, [laughs] honestly, I don't know why it's come to mind, I own this company, I've owned it for a while. I have been at the annual meetings, I'm talking about Markel, specialty insurance company. They also have a Markel Ventures, which is a slight operation where they make equity investments in non-public businesses. But fundamentally an insurance company that's how they make their money. It's been lagging for a couple of years, especially coming out of the pandemic, the disparity between the S&P 500 in Markel has widened if you look coming to the pandemic lows back in March of last year. It's a solid company with a good business, with great management, I think it's ultimately going to be fine. It has dramatically outperformed the S&P 500 going back to when it came public. But with the focus on SaaS companies, tech companies, work-from-home companies, I just don't think it's getting a lot of attention, and especially one it's an insurance company and it's not a brand-new recently public AI insurance company, so [laughs] you all know what I'm talking about there. It's an insurance company and it's a lesser known one, it's a smaller one, it's not one that comes to mind for a lot of people. But I think it's worth investing in, and I think you'll see that gap narrow, and perhaps Markel starting beating the market again if we were getting into a recession or a slowdown of any kind.

Withers: I know Markel has pulled back. It's made a number of acquisitions in its history, and sometimes, when it requires a new entity, the market punishes them for a while. I remember I went through when it bought another company in Europe, but it hasn't made any acquisitions since, looks like 2018. Is this a case of the company's just not popular anymore with investors?

Bordelon: It might be. For a while, it's pretty property when they were talked about as a baby Berkshire, and it's very different than Berkshire Hathaway, but they had their reputation. Insurance company that had a great chief investment officer who is investing capital and doing a very good job of that. But Berkshire has lost favor, too, value investing has lost favor. I guess people are like just not hot on that model right now, and so it's faded by the wayside. But there's nothing wrong with the business, it's a great company.

Withers: It's interesting. I thought maybe the institutional ownership had declined and I don't know what it's been in the past, but it's 79% of its float is held by institutions. It's not that the big guys have lost faith in it. Looking forward to this one coming back and beating the market.

Toby Bordelon owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Markel. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Markel. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2023 $200 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), short January 2023 $200 puts on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and short January 2023 $265 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

Markel Stock Quote
Markel
MKL
$1,298.06 (0.68%) $8.70
Berkshire Hathaway Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway
BRK.A
$463,000.02 (0.05%) $220.02
Berkshire Hathaway Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway
BRK.B
$306.39 (0.13%) $0.40

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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