Allstate Corp., the largest U.S. publicly traded seller of auto and home insurance, said it would repurchase as much as $3 billion of its stock as fourth-quarter profit exceeded analysts’ estimates.
Operating income, which excludes some investment results, was $1.72 a share, beating the $1.69 average estimate of 22 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Net income declined to $795 million, or $1.86 a share, from $810 million, or $1.76, a year earlier when there were more shares outstanding, Northbrook, Illinois-based Allstate said Wednesday in a statement.
Chief Executive Officer Tom Wilson returned $2.8 billion to shareholders in 2014 with dividends and buybacks, Allstate said. The new $3 billion repurchase program is set to be completed by July 2016.
“The return-of-capital story here has been really strong,” Jim Shanahan, an analyst with Edward Jones & Co., said in an interview prior to the results. ‘
Allstate rose less than 1 percent to $72.58 at 4:02 p.m. in New York before the announcement. The shares hit a record $72.87 on Wednesday, almost a year after the insurer approved the existing $2.5 billion stock repurchase, which was its biggest buyback since 2006.
Premium revenue in the property and liability business advanced to $7.35 billion in the fourth quarter from $7.01 billion a year earlier. Catastrophe costs fell to $95 million from $117 million.
Allstate’s combined ratio for Q4 came in at 89.5, versus 87.5 in the 2013 fourth quarter.
A lack of major weather-related events boosted earnings for Allstate and competitors including Travelers Cos. and Progressive Corp., Shanahan said. Travelers, the only property- and-casualty insurer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, said on Jan. 22 that fourth-quarter profit rose 5.1 percent to $1.04 billion.
Allstate said it spent 90 cents for every premium dollar in its property-and-liability unit in the fourth quarter, compared with 88.7 cents a year earlier.
Book value, a measure of assets minus liabilities, fell to $48.24 a share from $48.28 at the end of September.
For the full year, net income climbed to $2.75 billion from $2.26 billion in 2013.