By Michael Teich
Insurance provider Assurant has a surplus of cash, and some politicians in DC may not agree with how the $6 billion company plans to spend it.
At its investor day event on Thursday, Assurant ($AIZ) outlined its long-term strategy and financial objectives. Part of the game plan includes a return of approximately $1.35 billion to shareholders through the end of 2021 through common stock dividends and share repurchases. Assurant CEO Alan Colberg told Cheddar in an interview that there are a couple of reasons influencing the decision to put more money in shareholders' hands.
"One, we believe our stock is not valued appropriately. We think we're well undervalued," he said. "Second, we have strong free cash flow and that's a good use of capital, to return to shareholders."
Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have criticized stock buybacks, arguing the repurchases benefit shareholders at the expense of workers who would be better off if the capital was used for wage increases. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) ー who are both, like Sanders, 2020 presidential candidates ーalso claim buybacks limit investment and stunt long-term economic growth. Colberg doesn't agree.
"It's not like we could invest more. If we weren't buying back, the argument often is that we'd invest a lot more. We're investing a lot," Colberg said. "It's not realistic to assume I can suddenly invest double what I'm already investing."
Assurant has raised its common stock dividend each year since going public, and has repurchased 62 percent of its common stock. Shares are up over 11 percent in the past year.
For full interview [click here}(https://cheddar.com/videos/assurant-delivers-financial-outlook-to-return-1-35-billion-to-shareholders-through-2021).