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AIG Has 30% Upside from Here

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If you didn't already know it, American International Group (AIG - Get Report) is back and back in the black. For the few remaining doubters, AIG's earnings report on Thursday solidified its position as a company on solid footing.

For the second quarter of 2013, operations produced $1.12 in earnings, over 31% above the average estimate near 85 cents. Thursday was the seventh beat in a row and outperformed 2012 and 2011 comparable periods.

Revenue is vaulting higher with an increase of 6.7% from last year's second quarter, now reaching $17.32 billion, well above estimates. After the company held out its hand and received a $182 billion liquidity injection, debt has been a monkey on the insurer's back. But the long-term debt continues to fall and stands at $48.5 billion, down from $73.9 billion last year.

The U.S. Treasury Department now stands with zero shares and $22.7 billion more from its investment in AIG. Not exactly a bailout that anyone can claim cost taxpayers any money any longer. The key debt-to-capital ratio fell under 20% and is now 17.7%. This is fantastic news for shareholders and leaves little doubt that the shares are positioned to continue higher.

One billion dollars is the amount AIG's board authorized to spend to buy back shares. I don't normally agree with share buybacks. In my mind, most buybacks represent a failure by the management to find better uses of the capital. On top of that, most boards buy high and sell low, the opposite of what shareholders want.

In AIG's case, it makes absolute sense to buy back shares while they are cheap and can increase earnings per share in future quarters with the positive cash flow. Their size is already an issue, as demonstrated by the Federal Reserve's edict AIG is "systemically important" and under increased regulation from the government's Financial Stability Oversight Council.

AIG has a market cap of about $72 billion based on a share price of $49 and 1.48 billion shares outstanding. When put into that perspective, a $1 billion buyback doesn't quite have the same ring to it, but it's a perfect move, and I anticipate a stock price tailwind even if they don't purchase the full amount authorized (often the case after companies announced buybacks).
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