3 Major Insurance Picks for Value and Recovery Investors

These three companies offer an impressive combination of value and earnings growth.

Alexander MacLennan
Alexander MacLennan
Apr 25, 2014 at 9:42AM

Finding cheap value stocks has become more difficult after the market's big 2013 rally. But American International Group (NYSE:AIG), Aegon NV (NYSE:AEG), and Genworth Financial (NYSE:GNW) still trade for less than book value while having earnings growth still on tap. 

Face of the bailouts
After a series of financial bets gone bad, American International Group became one of the biggest takers of government bailout money in 2008. Even after a rebound from its lows, AIG still trades at only around 0.7 times book value today.

With the government stake eliminated, and the market uncertainty that accompanies it, AIG shares rose out of the $30 range and are currently hanging around the $50 mark. Alongside this, AIG has sold off non-core assets and reinstated a small dividend. Seeing a good value in its own shares, AIG is using share buybacks to not only reduce the share count but to also increase book value per share.

Making AIG look even better are current estimates for future earnings. Based on the current share price and estimates from NASDAQ, AIG trades at 11.9 times FY2014 earnings. However, this future multiple declines to 10.3 times for FY2015, 8.7 times FY 2016 earnings, and 7.8 times FY 2017 earnings. With this earnings growth, AIG stands a good chance of moving closer to book value and a valuation similar to peers.

Dutch investment
Value investors looking for a larger dividend should consider Aegon NV for its price to book value of 0.67 times and 3.4% dividend yield. Like AIG, Aegon took a government bailout in 2008 since, despite being a Dutch company, is has major U.S. operations and exposure to U.S. markets. However, Aegon's bailout was far smaller at only 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion USD at the time) and was repaid faster the the AIG one.

The Dutch insurer has expanded far beyond its home country, taking a major market presence in the U.S. and Britain. Today, Aegon operates TransAmerica in the U.S. which provides life, home, and auto insurance among its offerings.

Aegon is also expected to see some near term earnings growth. Analyst forecasts from NASDAQ call for earnings per share of $0.78 for FY2014 rising to $0.89 for FY2015.

Growth and value
Genworth Financial brings a huge discount to book value to willing investors. Trading at less than 0.6 times book value, the market is pricing Genworth like it's a sinking ship.

Genworth provides insurance products that are different from the standard home and auto insurance. Besides life insurance, Genworth also offers long-term care insurance, mortgage insurance, and annuities.

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Despite its low price to book value, Genworth's earnings look to be headed higher rather than lower. Analysts reporting to NASDAQ see Genworth's earnings per share rising from $1.43 for FY2014, to $1.71 for FY2015, $1.95 for FY2016, and $2.30 for FY 2017 making for future multiples of 11.8 times, 9.9 times, 8.7 times, and 7.3 times.

Save big on insurance
American International Group, Aegon NV, and Genworth Financial all offer an enticing combination of low price to book values and strong expected earnings growth. While each of these companies had a rough time during the last recession, they still looked priced for recession -- even though economic conditions have turned better.