On Apr 17, 2014, Zacks Investment Research downgraded
Fortegra Financial Corporation
) by a notch to a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell).
Why the Downgrade?
Fortegra Financial has been experiencing downward estimate
revisions on the back of sluggish fourth-quarter 2013 results and
a slack top line guidance. The company also delivered negative
earnings surprises in 3 of the last 4 quarters with an average
miss of 15.4%.
Additionally, this multi-line insurer underperformed the
one-year S&P 500 index, which posed a growth of 17.2% against
a negative return of 18.1% clocked by the company.
On Mar 10, Fortegra Financial reported fourth-quarter 2013
operating earnings per share of 17 cents, which significantly
lagged both the Zacks Consensus Estimate and the prior-year
quarter figure by 26% and 10%, respectively.
Top-line growth of about 45% was substantially offset by
higher-than-expected operating expenses that spiked 32%, marring
the desired upside. Consequently, adjusted EBITDA margin shrunk
510 basis points to 33.9%.
Further, with the divestments of its subsidiaries - Bliss
& Glennon (B&G) and eReinsure to AmWINS Group Inc. - in
Dec 2013, Fortegra Financial lacks any major growth catalyst
going forward. While the company is banking on the exit of a
major competitor in the payment protection market, this is yet to
translate in to tangible growth.
The downsides are also evident from management's top-line
growth guidance of 7-9% in 2014, noticeably down from over 35%
growth generated in 2013. As well, EBITDA margin is expected to
remain flat with 2013-levels. Overall, weak fundamental growth
prospects amid regulatory challenges and sluggish market
conditions have been failing to signal any positive investor
sentiment at the moment.
Meanwhile, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2014 and 2015
plunged 11.2% and 13.5% to 79 cents and 83 cents per share,
respectively, in the last 30 days. No upward revision in
estimates was witnessed for both the years.
Moreover, the Most Accurate estimate for Fortegra Financial's
2014 earnings currently stand at 73 cents a share, resulting in
of -7.60%, and reflecting slow growth momentum.
Other Worthy Insurers
While we prefer to avoid Fortegra Financial for the time
being, some better-ranked insurers such as
FBL Financial Group Inc.
) are worth considering. All these stocks carry a Zacks Rank #2
FBL FINL GRP-A (FFG): Free Stock Analysis
FORTEGA FIN CP (FRF): Free Stock Analysis
PRIMERICA INC (PRI): Free Stock Analysis
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