Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Allstate's Stock Higher, but It's Still Behind Rivals

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Allstate's Stock Higher, but It's Still Behind Rivals

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Basch, Times-Union business writer

Allstate Corp.'s stock rose 5 percent last Wednesday after the insurance company reported first-quarter earnings that beat analysts' estimates. But the stock is still lagging behind the rest of the industry.

The stock has been trading about 18 times its earnings, which is 40 percent lower than the average insurer. Analysts told Bloomberg News last week that chief executive officer Edward Liddy isn't doing enough to increase sales.

"He's moving at a bit of a snail's pace," said Kevin Callahan, an analyst at Century Capital Management.

Allstate's first-quarter earnings, excluding realized investment losses, actually fell 12 percent to 68 cents a share. But that beat the consensus forecast of 58 cents a share by analysts surveyed by First Call Corp.

Earnings in the quarter were lowered by high homeowner insurance claims, which have plagued the company recently.

The stock rose as high as $41.25 last week, it's highest level in nine months. But analysts have mixed opinions on where the stock goes from here. Fox-Pitt Kelton analyst David Anthony raised his rating from "hold" to "attractive" after the earnings report, but Banc of America's Brian R. Meredith downgraded the stock from "buy" to "market perform."

FLORIDA BANKS

Florida Banks Inc. has increased earnings for six consecutive quarters, and CEO Charles E. Hughes Jr. thinks that trend will continue.

"I think we will, without any doubt, be able to continue to do that," Hughes said last week during a conference call with analysts after the Jacksonville-based banking company reported first-quarter earnings of 7 cents a share.

Hughes also said the company is increasing its earnings projection for all of 2002 to 32 cents a share, compared with its previous forecast of 30 cents.

Florida Banks operates community banks in six Florida markets. Hughes said the company has no plans now to open more banks, but he expects growth to continue. Total assets reached $552.5 million as of March 31.

"We think we have come an awfully long way since we started this company back in 1998, when we were only about $40 or $50 million" in assets, Hughes said. …

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