Hartford Financial Remains Source of Takeover Chatter

Shares of Hartford Financial (HIG) continue to trade near recent highs, with activity in the options market remaining strong, as persistent takeover rumors continue to underpin the stock value.

Hartford Financial has been the subject of takeover speculation for at least a year, after Ace Ltd (ACE) reached an agreement in July 2015 to buy Chubb (CB) for $28 billion, conflating the values of a number of property and casualty insurance providers.

Hartford's share price has held up heading into its July 28 earnings report, even though the results are expected to show a year over year decline of 12% in EPS, and after the company reported an earnings shortfall for its fiscal first quarter.

Hartford recorded 95 cents a share for its first quarter results, coming in short of estimates of $1.03, as the insurance provider took a larger than expected reserve. Nevertheless, the stock is narrowly higher for the year, trading at $43.74 per share Monday, after having topped out recently at $48 a share.

There has been talk that Hartford could be in the crosshairs of acquisitive rivals such as Travelers (TRV) , which is often mentioned as a consolidator in the property and casualty sector.

The company worked through a lengthy revision initiative that effectively ended last year, and is now regarded as a stronger player in the P&C business.

The stock yields like several other names in the sector, throwing off about 2%. It hasn't raised capital in the credit market in nearly three years.

Like several names in the sector, it trades at a relatively modest price to earnings multiple, suggesting that a takeover wouldn't strain the balance sheet of a potential acquirer. Premiums in the sector have come in at near 30% for some of the recent transactions.

Options activity in the sector remains elevated, with Hartford continuing to attract the attention of derivatives players.

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