NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Baldwin & Lyons (Nasdaq: BWINB) has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, reasonable valuation levels and increase in stock price during the past year. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat weak growth in earnings per share.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • BALDWIN & LYONS has exprienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. Earnings per share have declined over the last year. We anticipate that this should continue in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, BALDWIN & LYONS reported lower earnings of $1.68 versus $3.04 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 117.8% in earnings (-$0.30 versus $1.68).
  • Compared to where it was 12 months ago, the stock is up, but it has so far lagged the appreciation in the S&P 500. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • BWINB's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.03 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels.
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 8.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 8.3%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.

Baldwin & Lyons, Inc., through its subsidiaries, engages in marketing and underwriting property and casualty insurance products primarily in the United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 29.7, below the average insurance industry P/E ratio of 39.7 and above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Baldwin & Lyons has a market cap of $300.4 million and is part of the financial sector and insurance industry. Shares are up 4.6% year to date as of the close of trading on Thursday.

You can view the full Baldwin & Lyons Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.
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