Today, we look at two Canadian insurance companies with smart expansion plans, Great-West Lifeco and Sun Life. Great-West is one of Canada’s largest insurance firms. Recent purchases of firms in Ireland and the U.S. have expanded Great-West’s assets under managment to more than $1 trillion and increased the company’s profits and dividend payments. Sun Life Financial does business in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Asia, and has $812.6 billion in assets under management. It recently bought the U.S. benefit business of Assurant Inc., a purchase that nearly doubles its U.S. benefit business and gives Sun Life access to Assurant’s advanced online customer service system.We view these two insurance firms as dependable blue chip stocks to buy for conservative investors.
GREAT-WEST LIFECO (Toronto symbol GWO; www.greatwestlifeco.com) is one of Canada’s largest insurance firms. It also offers mutual funds and wealth management. Power Financial owns 67.1% of Great-West.
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In the three months ended June 30, 2015, Great-West’s earnings per share rose 6.5%, to $0.66 from $0.63 a year earlier.
In recent years, Great-West has bought firms in Ireland and the U.S. that have added new business lines and boosted its profits. Growth by acquisition can be risky, but the company’s large size lets it take advantage of opportunities with strong chances of success.
Great-West’s expansion helped it end the latest quarter with $1.1 trillion of assets under administration, up 42.7% from $804.5 billion a year earlier. The stock trades at just 12.1 times Great-West’s forecast 2015 earnings of $2.82 a share. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 6.0% with the March 2015 payment, to $0.326 from $0.3075. It yields 3.8%.
Recommendation in Canadian Wealth Advisor: BUY
Blue chip stocks: Assurant purchase extends benefits to Sun Life
SUN LIFE FINANCIAL (Toronto symbol SLF; www.sunlife.ca) sells life insurance, savings, retirement and pension products to individuals and corporations. The company has $812.6 billion of assets under management and mainly operates in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. It’s also expanding in Asia.
In the three months ended September 30, 2015, Sun Life’s earnings per share rose 2.4%, to $0.86 from $0.84.
The company continues to expand in the U.S. At the same time, it’s cutting its risk by focusing on highly profitable niche markets with low capital reserve requirements.
Its latest purchase was Assurant Inc.’s U.S. employee benefits unit for $975 million U.S. This deal nearly doubles the size of Sun Life’s U.S. benefit business, to $4.0 billion worth of policies for over 64,000 employees of small, medium and large businesses. It’s now the sixth-largest U.S. benefits provider by revenue, up from ninth.
The acquisition also adds leading dental- and vision-insurance products to Sun Life’s lineup, letting it cross-sell them to its existing clients. As well, Assurant has invested heavily in an advanced online enrolment and customer-service system. Sun Life can extend this system to its entire benefits business.
The stock trades at just 12.3 times Sun Life’s forecast 2015 earnings of $3.64 a share. The company is raising its dividend by 2.6% with the December 2015 payment. It now yields a high 3.5%.
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