Holding company Loews (NYSE:L) today posted second-quarter financial results that included lower revenue and a significant decline in profit. Here's a look at how the overall figures stacked up against the prior-year period:
|Metric||2014 Q2||2015 Q2 (change)|
|Revenue||$3.6 billion||$3.4 billion (-4%)|
|Profit||$0.75 per share||$0.46 per share (-39%)|
|Book value||$51.85 per share||$51.91 per share (n/a)|
Sales slipped at Loews' two biggest subsidiaries, insurance giant CNA Financial and drilling company Diamond Offshore. Meanwhile, CNA Financial and energy subsidiary Boardwalk Pipeline both generated lower earnings, which cut profit nearly in half this quarter.
A closer look at the results
CNA Financial accounts for over two-thirds of Loews' revenue. And the subsidiary's $125 million sales drop this quarter explains almost all of the parent company's growth slip. Diamond Offshore also booked lower sales on weak demand for its drilling rigs. On the plus side, Boardwalk Pipeline posted a slight sales improvement while Loews Hotels turned in a strong revenue performance.
|CNA Financial||$2.3 billion (-5%)|
|Diamond Offshore||$632 million (-10%)|
|Boardwalk Pipeline||$299 million (+1%)|
|Loews Hotels||$167 million (+49%)|
But for the second straight quarter, a large writedown hurt Loews' profit. In the first quarter the loss came from Diamond Offshore, which took a charge on several rigs in its mid-water fleet that weren't finding enough work. This quarter, CNA Financial booked an $84 million write-off to remove asbestos and environmental pollution liabilities from its portfolio. Together, the two losses have helped push Loews' profit through the first six months of the year to $170 million, down from $279 million in the prior-year period.
Management ramped up its spending on share repurchases by allocating $233 million to stock buybacks over the last three months compared to $71 million in the prior quarter. Loews' outstanding share count has fallen by 4% in the last year, providing a lift to per-share earnings results.
Still, that increased stock buyback spending has hardly made a dent in the company's massive cash pile: Loews' carried over $5.5 billion of cash and short-term investments as of early May.
Consistent with the company's value investing philosophy, that mountain of cash will remain underutilized until a great deal comes along. "Maintaining a sizable liquidity position has given us the freedom to deploy our capital opportunistically in order to create value for our shareholders over the long term," CEO Jim Tisch explained to investors in last quarter's conference call. "While we acknowledge that cash can be a drag on Loews' short-term returns, we feel that having the flexibility to be opportunistic and not rely on financing markets has served our shareholders very well over the long term," he said.