On Tuesday, the stock moved around 3% higher (before giving gains back late in the day) on an upgrade by Goldman Sachs (GS) analyst Michael Nannizzi from sell to buy ($63 target). He noted, among other things, the company’s 3.3% dividend yield, which is roughly 140 basis points above the yield on 10-year Treasuries.
In the second quarter, the company reported that total after-tax catastrophe costs nearly $1.1 billion, due to the tornadoes and hail storms in the United States during April and May. While the disasters caused a short term stoppage in huge share buybacks, management made their long term intentions extremely clear: “On the premise that weather patterns return to more normal levels and our profitability returns to historical levels, and to the extent that the capital can be put back to work in our business for growth opportunities, we will continue buying back shares.”
Even with the temporary reduction in buybacks, management can still tout impressive numbers: Year-to-date repurchases total $1.3 billion of common stock, with a total trailing twelve month repurchase of $3.5 billion. Those two numbers have reduced diluted shares outstanding by 3.5% and 11.9%, respectively. Since the end of 2007, the number of shares outstanding has decreased by more than one-third.
For now, the company needs to pay claims, and buybacks are on hold. However, the important realization for long term shareholders is that the resulting 25% price decline from the low $60s in May is really just an opportunity. For one, it’s a chance to buy more shares in a company that has increased BVPS at a rate of 10.5% and 9.3% in the last five and ten years, respectively, for 20% below book. Secondly, management will be able to continue repurchasing shares (pending any increase) at bargain-bin prices, which will further compound strong business results in expansion of book value per share.
In the end, the short-term decline only sweetens the opportunity for long-term gain. For investors who can see past next quarter, shares of TRV may be worth a second look.
About the author:
I hope to own a collection of great businesses; to ever sell one, I would demand a substantial premium to the average market valuation due to what I believe are the understated benefits to the long term investor of superior fundamentals and time on intrinsic value. I don't have a target when I purchase a stock; my goal is to replicate the underlying returns of the business in question - which if I've done my job properly, should be very attractive over a period of many years.