(Updates with profit, shares starting in third paragraph.)
Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Allstate Corp., the largest publicly traded U.S. home and auto insurer, increased its dividend 12 percent and authorized the company’s largest buyback since 2006.
As much as $2.5 billion of stock can be repurchased in the next 18 months, and the quarterly dividend was lifted to 28 cents a share, Northbrook, Illinois-based Allstate said today in a statement distributed by PR Newswire.
Chief Executive Officer Tom Wilson, 56, is increasing shareholder returns after profit in the fourth quarter rose on lower catastrophe costs. Operating profit, which excludes some investment results, was $1.70 a share, beating by 33 cents the average estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 22 analysts. Wilson has focused on improving margins from covering cars and homes after limiting risk tied to life insurance and savings products.
“We’ve made substantial progress in improving returns” from homeowners’ policies, Wilson said on a Feb. 6 earnings call.
The company could repurchase as many as 48.3 million shares based on today’s closing price of $51.79 in New York. That’s about 11 percent of the 449 million shares outstanding.
Allstate rose to $52.15 in extended trading at 4:49 p.m. The insurer has gained 11 percent in the past year, compared with the 23 percent rally of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Insurance Index.
--With assistance from Noah Buhayar in New York. Editors: Dan Reichl, David Scheer