Once again, it's earnings season and there's a ton of new information flying about for each of your favorite companies. No time to catch Genworth Financial's (GNW 0.41%) fourth quarter earnings call? Not to worry -- The Fool has you covered with the top three things you needed to hear!
1. Education needed
2013 was a big year for the turnaround story of Genworth's long-term care division. With new products and pricing initiatives, the division went through a deep review, with management focusing on three priorities: improving pricing on older policies so as to reduce the strain on earnings and capital; bringing newer policies back to the original pricing assumptions by requesting smaller price increases proactively; and introducing new products with more conservative assumptions.
With a new product in the pipeline that would provide 20% in projected returns, Genworth is ready to kick-start the LTC industry. But there remains one huge roadblock to the LTC segment's success -- a lack of consumer education. Sales in 2014 are expected to remain low until the company's new product is established in the market and distribution is expended.
In order to achieve higher acceptance of the need for LTC policies, Genworth is looking for ways to increase consumer awareness of LTC needs with investments over time in marketing, distribution, and the overall Genworth brand. Consumer education will be the first wave of offense for the insurer to secure the success of its newly streamlined LTC division.
2. Debt management
Despite adding another $400 million to its debt load in 2013 -- in anticipation of higher capital requirements expected from the Government Sponsored Entities in response to their revised eligibility standards for qualifying insurance mortgage insurers -- one of the top priorities for Genworth is the continued reduction and management of its debt.
In 2013, the company sold off its wealth management business, with the proceeds being held in order to address debt maturities through Dec. 2016, with 2014 maturities totaling $485 million.
While the $400 million debt transaction in Dec. was viewed as the most effective approach to raising the necessary capital, Genworth continues to aim for a 20%-22% leverage ratio in the medium term. Coupled with an improvement in its minimum adjusted interest coverage ratio to above 6x over the next three years, the company believes that ratings agencies' concerns will be fully addressed with the debt management measures, resulting in a 1-notch upgrade for the US life companies and the holding company.
3. Australian IPO
During the third quarter, Genworth Financial's management announced their intention to complete a minority IPO of its Australian mortgage insurance operations. The company discussed the continued plans for the IPO, stating that further monitoring of market conditions was needed, but that the goal was to complete the transaction during 2014.
Since the company's capital plans do not hinge on the completion of the IPO, Genworth is afforded the luxury of flexibility. Management stated that it will continue to watch conditions, particularly customer demand, before pressing forward with the IPO.
Keeping in line with the previous discussion on debt management, the conference call included a very direct intention for the Australian IPO's proceeds, whenever it occurs: paying down the company's leverage. Though the size of the proceeds will determine whether other priorities are addressed, such as dividends or share repurchases, Genworth's CEO, Tom McInerney, was very clear that the priority remains with leverage management.