We originally purchased AIG shares in March after identifying the US Treasury’s impending sales of its AIG holdings as an instance of one of our favorite types of investments: “forced” (or non-economically-motivated) selling. We determined Treasury was both anchored to its $29 cost basis and intent on exiting its position as soon as possible, allowing us to purchase AIG at a discount to intrinsic value. In addition to the forced selling dynamic that created the opportunity, we believed AIG’s substantial capital return – manifested as buybacks in the Treasury’s offering – provided downside protection. Finally, we also liked the technical bid for AIG shares coming out of the offering, as its index weighting would increase with the reduction in government-owned shares, forcing index-sensitive investors to grow their position in the equity.
We soon realized that our initial thesis for AIG was only the prologue. Rather than simply a chance to create value from a short-term dislocation in pricing due to forced selling, AIG was actually more similar to another type of Third Point investment: a post-reorg equity newly emerged, with all of the attendant upside. We continued to accumulate AIG shares in Treasury’s offerings in the second and third quarters, as well as in the open market, considering it a cheap restructured equity that was rationalizing its non-core operations while executing an operational turnaround. So while many investors argue the most recent placement from the Treasury was the last of AIG’s main catalysts, we were not “renters” and instead view AIG as a core, event-driven investment with attractive post-reorg equity-like characteristics.
In the near term, we believe AIG’s continued portfolio optimization should free up additional excess capital that, subject to regulatory approval, likely can be returned to shareholders. In December, AIG’s lockup in its listed, non-core Asian life insurance business, AIA, will expire, allowing the company to monetize its unencumbered 13.7% interest worth some USD $6.1 billion at recent market valuations. Further, we believe the sale, spin, or listing of ILFC, AIG’s aircraft lessor subsidiary, will not only generate $5+ billion in excess capital but also simplify the group’s structure, reducing cost of capital.
Longer term, we believe the company’s operational turnaround will help AIG realize its intrinsic value, as Chartis, AIG’s property and casualty arm, improves its return on equity to the targeted 10 - 12% by 2015. To achieve this ROE target, Chartis’s management, led by the talented Peter Hancock, is emphasizing international and shorter tail consumer property lines, while investing in new policy administration and back office systems. We believe this ROE target is achievable, and view the early evidence as promising: a ~300 bps year-over-year improvement in Chartis’ Q2’12 ex-cat loss ratio to 65.2% and a ~100 bps year-over-year increase in consumer share of premiums to 39% in Q2. We are further encouraged that Chartis’ turnaround has the wind at its back with the mid to high single digit pricing growth in the property and casualty insurance industry.
Treasury’s ultimate sale of its remaining 16% stake in AIG will serve as a critical catalyst for the company, allowing initiation of a dividend, a change in management’s compensation structure to a more standard incentive-based bonus payout model, and the removal of the “overhang” of Treasury ownership. Given these multiple paths to value creation, we believe AIG’s current valuation at ~10x consensus 2013 earnings and 0.5x pro forma tangible book value of $65 per share has significant upside from these levels.
From Third Point's third quarter letter.