Stock of the week: Aviva
International insurance and financial services company Aviva has been implementing a restructuring and turnaround strategy after recognising that weak conditions in Europe had affected performance. So far, the improvements have led to impressive results, with its operating performance improving and the shares staging a good recovery, and as a result, we are this week highlighting the company as a good investment option.
Its 2017 first half results affirmed the positive changes with the group highlighting a rise in operating profits of 11% to £1.465m. All the while, its larger life insurance business experienced operating profit growth of 8% with notable good growth in the UK and improvements in France and other parts of Europe. Particularly impressive is the stronger performance from its general insurance operations, up 25%, reflecting good underlying growth, acquisitions and foreign currency movements. It appears momentum is currently with them.
Ageing populations and a structural transition towards individuals rather than the government providing for income in retirement is driving business. Adding to the attraction is its digital platform which has been making good contributions to growth in general insurance premiums and simplifying and improving customer convenience. Interested investors may also want to note that the Friend’s Life acquisition has so far progressed well with good cost synergies achieved.
We believed in the recovery prospects at Aviva, and over time both the share price and dividend pay-outs have recovered well, diminishing Brexit worries. Indeed, the business is more streamlined than ever and it is generating good cash flows.
The shares have surpassed our previous target price and we continue to recommend Aviva as a ‘buy’. Our view is that now this is an attractive company for investors seeking income and willing to accept a medium level of risk.