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Progressive Keeps Riding High With Strong Growth

By Dan Caplinger - Sep 18, 2015 at 10:19AM

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The auto insurance giant has kept up the pace of its rising premiums and profits.

Source: Progressive.

The only thing that investors like to see more than growth at a company is consistent growth. Insurance company Progressive (PGR 1.58%) has done an excellent job of producing consistent growth in its auto insurance business, and it has also taken steps into other types of insurance products in order to diversify its exposure even further.

Unlike most companies, Progressive releases its results every month, and its August numbers continued to show that the rising insurance star is making progress on multiple fronts to play a bigger role in the industry overall. Let's take a closer look at Progressive's latest figures and what they say about its future.

Progressive stays in high gear
Progressive's August numbers were consistent with the growth rates that we've seen from the insurance company for a long time. Net premiums written climbed 12% to $1.68 billion, while earned premiums also posted a 12% gain to finish at nearly $1.57 billion. The company's profits continued to accelerate, with net income rising 20% to $101.5 million, producing earnings of $0.17 per share. That's well over a third of the consensus estimate that investors have for the third quarter as a whole, and combined with last month's $0.18 per share profit, Progressive is on track to top third-quarter projections by what could be a considerable amount.

Looking more deeply at Progressive's numbers, the company recently hit a milestone with its direct-sold auto insurance policies representing a larger portion of its policies in force than its agency-sold business, as the direct-sold business climbed 8% year over year even as agency-sold policy counts eased back by 1%. The company had more than 9.5 million personal auto policies in force at the end of August, and although its commercial lines and property business are much smaller, they too have contributed their share to Progressive's overall growth.

One notable uptick came from Progressive's securities holdings, with the insurance company posting a big jump in net realized gains on its securities portfolio during the month. Those numbers are volatile, with August's figure coming in more than double last year's gains, but over time, the ebbs and flows in investment-related gains tend to make them less critical than what's happening in Progressive's core insurance operations.

What lies down the road for Progressive?
Progressive continues to work with its customers to try to make their insurance coverage more effective at avoiding problems. Last month, for instance, Progressive rolled out a program to focus on truck drivers, dubbing September Trucker Health Awareness month and offering a series of live health and fitness events for truckers. With online tools and sweepstakes designed to encourage participation, Progressive says that it's aiming to show appreciation for the truckers who make up a considerable portion of its commercial-lines insurance business. At the same time, making trucking safer can also have an impact on Progressive's personal auto business, and that's certainly a key area for the company going forward.

Also, Progressive has moved forward with its innovative Snapshot program. It said earlier this month that it had chosen a company to develop software to share the program with customers through a mobile app, with a pilot scheduled to begin in the middle of this month.

By offering trip-based information to users along with tips, Progressive hopes that driving will become more interactive and lead its customers to be safer and produce fewer losses. At the same time, the tool has already been a key marketing point for Progressive, and the insurer clearly wants customers to see it as having a competitive advantage over its rivals by offering information related to driving behavior directly to policyholders. Internally, the program has provided huge amounts of data, with Progressive claiming more than 14 billion miles of driving data since introducing the technology seven years ago.

Progressive continues to deliver solid growth to investors, and that's a huge part of why the stock has remained near its highs despite a rough market environment. By staying ahead of the curve, Progressive has the ability to outperform its competition well into the future.

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