AXIS Capital Holdings Ltd. plans to repurchase $750 million in its common shares over the next two years, adding to an already sizable buyback of a few billion dollars worth of shares.
The Bermuda-based specialty insurer and reinsurer said the new repurchase will be effective on Jan. 1, 2015 and run through Dec. 31, 2016, depending on market conditions. It’s designed to replace the existing authorization, which has $268 million in share repurchase authorization available through the end of 015.
In other good news for the company, the share repurchase comes along with a quarterly dividend of $0.29 per common share, a 7.4 percent jump. Shareholders of record as of the end of 2014 will get the dividend payment on Jan. 15, 2015. AXIS will also be paying dividends for Series B, C and D preferred shares.
AXIS Capital President and CEO Albert Benchimol said in a prepared statement that the company, since its IPO 11 years ago, has repurchased about 92 million shares in open market or private transactions worth $3.2 billion. That massive number includes a 10.5 million share repurchase so far in 2014. It’s worth $482 million, and part of a $750 million share repurchase granted in December 2014.
Benchimol said the new repurchase authorization and dividend increase will “enhance our capacity to return capital to our shareholders in 2015.”
In September, A.M. Best Co. upgraded the financial strength rating of AXIS Specialty Ltd. and its operating affiliates to “A+” (Superior) from “A” (Excellent and its issuer credit ratings to “aa-” from “a+”. As well, Best upgraded the issuer credit ratings to “a-” from “bbb+” and all existing debt ratings of AXIS Capital Holdings Ltd, the parent of AXIS Specialty Ltd.
At the time, Best said that the ratings upgrade reflected AXIS’s superior risk-adjusted capitalization, strong operating performance through varied market conditions and robust enterprise management controls.
Source: Axis Capital Holdings Ltd.