Travelers Cos. (TRV - Get Report) , the third-largest U.S. property insurer, said it would halt share buybacks to help pay for as much as $750 million in losses from Hurricane Harvey, providing investors with an indication of the fallout from the past month's catastrophic storms.
Travelers, based in New York, said in a statement late Monday that pre-tax catastrophe losses from Harvey would total $375 million to $750 million. The loss figures are net of proceeds from reinsurance, a type of backstop policies that primary insurers like Travelers can get from third parties.
While Travelers is still assessing potential damages from Hurricane Irma, the company has decided to temporarily suspend a stock-repurchasing program, which is designed to reduce shares outstanding and thus to increase earnings per share. Since June, the company had bought back $328 million of shares, compared with an average $380.5 million per quarter during the first half of the year.
Travelers is one of the first insurance companies to disclose potential losses in what is shaping up as one of the industry's costliest years for natural disasters in recent history. Harvey pounded the Houston area and parts of the Texas Gulf coast with more than four feet of rain after making landfall Aug. 25. Irma battered Florida with strong wind, storm surge and heavy rainfall after coming ashore earlier this week.
"We are not surprised to see a temporary halt in buybacks, and we expect other insurers will also announce similar pauses," analysts with the Swiss bank Credit Suisse wrote today in a report.
Travelers shares were flat in trading Tuesday afternoon at $122.48, after falling 4.4% in the past month. XL Group Ltd. (XL) , a Bermuda-based reinsurer, has seen its shares tumble 9.2% in the past month.
Credit Suisse slashed its estimates for Travelers' 2017 earnings per share to $6.99 from $8.90, while reducing its price target to $128 a share. The analysts assumed that the insurer will refrain from making $600 million of otherwise-planned share buybacks over the rest of the year.
"We are assuming $1 billion of total losses from Harvey and Irma for Travelers," the analysts wrote.