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Why Stewart Information Services Corp. Shares Popped

By Sean Williams - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:00AM

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Stewart information Services rallies after introducing new value growth initiatives. Should shareholders be excited about this move or be skeptical?

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Stewart Information Services (STC -1.02%), a title insurance and real estate products and services provider throughout the world, jumped as much as 15% after announcing a number of value creation strategies.

So what: According to Stewart Information Services, the company anticipates reducing costs across the board to save $25 million annually by 2015. In addition, it plans to initiate a share repurchase program beginning in the second half of 2014 that will return $70 million to shareholders by the end of 2015. If you recall, share repurchases don't put money directly into the pockets of shareholders, but it does reduce the number of shares outstanding, which can boost EPS and make a stock appear cheaper.

Now what: Based on Stewart Information Services current valuation of roughly $800 million as of the time of this writing, the company will be able to repurchase nearly 9% of its outstanding shares. It's a smart move for Stewart given that top-line growth is expected to land in the middle of the 1% to 2% range. The expectation here is that Stewart's EPS estimates for 2014 will move higher as its share count moves lower, and help push its current forward P/E of 14 down. As for me, while I appreciate the move, I'm not sold on Stewart's organic growth initiatives and would hold much prefer to stick to the sidelines until we see its business growing solidly in the mid-single digits.

Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

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Stewart Information Services Corporation Stock Quote
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