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Is Now the Time to Buy Legal & General Group?

By Rupert Hargreaves - Apr 16, 2013 at 9:22AM

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Should you buy Legal & General Group today?

LONDON -- I'm always searching for shares that can help ordinary investors like you make money from the stock market.

So right now I am trawling through the FTSE 100 and giving my verdict on every member of the blue-chip index. Simply put, I'm hoping to pinpoint the very best buying opportunities in today's uncertain market.

Today I am looking at Legal & General (LGEN -2.21%) (LGGNY -2.20%) to determine whether you should consider buying the shares at 168 pence.

I am assessing each company on several ratios:

Price/Earnings (P/E): Does the share look like a good value when compared against its competitors?

Price earnings growth (PEG): Does the share look good value factoring in predicted growth?

Yield: Does the share provide a solid income for investors?

Dividend cover: Is the dividend sustainable?

Let's look at the numbers:

StockPrice3-Yr. EPS GrowthProjected P/EPEGYield3-Yr. Dividend GrowthDividend Cover
Legal & General 168p 0% 11.4 1.4 4.6% 61% 1.8

The consensus analyst estimate for next year's earnings per share is 14.8 pence (8% growth) and dividend per share is 8.3 pence (9% growth).

Trading on a projected P/E of 11.4, Legal & General appears cheaper than its peers in the Life Insurance sector, which are currently trading on an average P/E of around 12.7.

Legal & General's P/E and high single-digit growth rate give a PEG ratio of around 1.4, which implies the share is slightly expensive for the near-term earnings growth the firm is expected to produce.

Offering a 4.6% yield, the group's dividend income is greater than the insurance sector average of 3.9%. Furthermore, Legal & General has a three-year compounded dividend growth rate of 61%, implying the yield will continue to stay above that of its peers.

Indeed, the dividend is nearly twice covered by earnings, giving the firm plenty room for further payout growth.

So, now the time to buy Legal & General?
As I have written in the table above, growth has been slow at this life insurance provider over the past few years. However, I believe that now could be the time to buy.

You see, life insurance is a product that is highly resistant to the economic climate. Indeed, I understand demand for life insurance products is influenced more by the ageing population and government welfare cuts than economic conditions, which should give Legal & General a very defensive nature.

Furthermore, due to the structure of life insurance products, where the client pays a recurring premium for a payout in the future, Legal & General enjoys a predictable and dependable cash flow.

In particular, this dependable cash flow has translated into dependable dividend payouts for shareholders, as the company has steadily increased its dividend by 60% over the past 10 years, despite the credit crisis in 2008.

That said, the firm did reduce its payout slightly in 2008 and 2009 -- which in hindsight proved a good buying opportunity as my calculations show the shares back then offered a dividend yield of around 6%.

However, I remain positive on the share, and based on the company's solid dividend yield and that P/E discount to the sector, I believe now looks to be a good time to buy Legal & General at 168 pence.

More FTSE opportunities
As well as Legal & General, I am also positive on the FTSE 100 share highlighted within thisexclusive free report.

You see, the blue chip in question offers a 5.7% income, its shares might be worth 850 pence compared to about 700 pence now -- and it has just been declared "The Motley Fool's Top Income Stock for 2013"!

Just click here to read the report -- it's free.

In the meantime, please stay tuned for my next verdict on a FTSE 100 share.

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Stocks Mentioned

Legal & General Group Plc Stock Quote
Legal & General Group Plc
LGEN
$252.10 (-2.21%) $-5.70
Legal & General Group Plc Stock Quote
Legal & General Group Plc
LGGNY
$15.75 (-2.20%) $0.35

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

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