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Assurant (AIZ) Q4 Earnings Miss, Revenues Beat Estimates

Assurant Inc. AIZ reported fourth-quarter 2015 net operating income of 97 cents per share that missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 37%. The bottom line also deteriorated from $1.38 per share earned in the year-ago quarter owing to soft performance at Assurant Solution’s mobile business and ongoing normalization of lender-placed insurance business at Assurant Specialty Property.

Assurant Inc. (AIZ) Street EPS & Surprise Percent - Last 5 Quarters | FindTheCompany

Total revenue came in at $2.5 billion, down 2.9% year over year. Nevertheless, it surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2 billion. Lower premiums earned, decline in both net investment income and net realized gains on investments was responsible for the year-over-year decline.

Net investment income, excluding Assurant Health runoff operations, decreased 1.2% year over year to $152.8 million.

Total benefits, losses and expenses came in at $2.4 billion, down 3.7% due to a decline in policyholder benefits.

Full-Year 2015 Highlights

Assurant’s full-year operating net earnings decreased 4.2% year over year to $6.58 per share.

Total revenues for 2015 slipped 0.5% year over year to $10.3 billion.

Segmental Performance

Net earned premiums, fees and other at Assurant Solutions remained flat year over year. Effect of foreign exchange volatility, loss of business, and declines in credit insurance as well as lower service contract production from North American retailers offset fee income growth from domestic mobile and auto warranty business.

Net operating income plummeted 49.1% year over year to $29.6 million, primarily due to lower contributions from mobile.

Net earned premiums, fees and others at Assurant Specialty Property plunged 12.4% year over year to $601.7 million due to the sale of American Reliable Insurance Company (“ARIC”) as well as loss of client business and normalization of lender-placed insurance. Nevertheless, fee income increased in the reported quarter, which reflected mortgage solutions business growth.  

Net operating income of $57.8 million was down 18.6% year over year primarily due to loss of client business and normalization of lender-placed insurance.

Net earned premiums, fees and others at the Assurant Employee Benefits segment inched up 0.5% year over year to $270.8 million on continued growth in voluntary products.

Net operating income soared 115.3% year over year to $15.5 million owing to favorable disability and life experience.

Financial Position

Assurant’s financial position remains strong with $460 million in corporate capital as of Dec 31, 2015. Total assets amounted to $30.1 billion as of Dec 31, 2015, down 4.7% year over year.

Annualized operating return on average equity, excluding AOCI and Assurant Health runoff operations, was 11.3% as of Dec 31, 2015 compared with 12.1% as of Dec 31, 2014.

Debt-to-capital ratio, excluding AOCI and Assurant Health runoff operations, deteriorated to 23.4% as of Dec 31, 2015 from 21.9% as of Dec 31, 2014.

Share Repurchase and Dividends Update

In 2015 the company repurchased approximately 4.2 million shares worth $284.6 million. Subsequent to 2015, through Feb. 5, 2016, the company spent $90.0 million to repurchase an additional 1.1 million shares and has $862.1 million remaining in the current repurchase authorization. Moreover, the company paid dividends worth $94.2 million to its shareholders.

2016 Outlook

The company expects Assurant Solutions’ net earned premiums, fees and net operating income to improve from the 2015 levels. The company anticipates an improvement in overall results in the second half of 2016 owing to new mobile programs, additional cost-cutting initiatives and improved international profitability. However, foreign exchange volatility, lower service contract revenues from legacy North American retail clients as well as continued declines in credit insurance are likely to adversely impact results.

Assurant Specialty Property’s net earned premiums and net operating income are likely to decline due to the ongoing normalization of lender-placed insurance business, partially offset by increased efficiencies and expense-saving initiatives. Through gain in market shares, the company envisions expansion in multi-family housing and mortgage solutions businesses. However, overall results are likely to be affected by catastrophe losses.

Assurant Health is anticipated to exit the health insurance market by 2016. During the remainder of the period before exit, the company is likely to incur $40–$50 million pre-tax of extra exit-related charges and overhead expenses, which had been excluded from the premium deficiency reserve calculation.

Zacks Rank and Performance of Other Insurers

Currently, Assurant carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Other insurers too recently released their fourth-quarter earnings results. While the bottom line at The Travelers Companies, Inc. TRV and Progressive Corp. PGR beat their respective Zacks Consensus Estimates, RLI Corp. RLI missed the same in the fourth quarter.

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Stone Temple Pilots' Dean DeLeo Talks Singer Search: 'We're Up for It'

The members of Stone Temple Pilots are ready for the next chapter in their career. Months after frontman Chester Bennington parted ways with the group to focus on Linkin Park, the hard rockers have launched an open audition on their website where literally anyone can prove whether or not they’ve got what it takes to front a multi-platinum rock band. The group announced its intention earlier today with a statement that paid respect to founding frontman Scott Weiland and tipped a hat to Bennington, and now they’ve begun the search.

Watch Stone Temple Pilots’ Musical Tribute to Scott Weiland

Beginning today, men and women can download instrumental versions of “Interstate Love Song,” “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” and “Vasoline” so they can wow the group with their vocal abilities and dynamism. Prospective frontpersons will upload up to two audio recordings — that anyone can hear on the website — and could also send their own songs and videos that would only be viewable by the band members. The group is also asking would-be singers to submit photos and bios to give the musicians a better sense of who they are.

Once Stone Temple Pilots have found that perfect frontperson, guitarist Dean DeLeo says they’ll be ready to move. “Robert [DeLeo, bass], Eric [Kretz, drums] and I have a lot of material kicking around,” he tells Rolling Stone from Los Angeles. “A lot, man. We really want to be able to make new music and forge on, move forward, evolve.”

Here, he explains what Stone Temple Pilots expect from the open audition.

How and when did you come up with the idea to do an open audition?
It has been some time. We kind of came to the realization a while back that the situation with Chester was not really allowing us to do all that we would have liked to have been doing. His involvement with Linkin Park and, of course, his family limited the time that we had with him. I will tell you this: Mr. Bennington gave it absolutely all that he had. I love him dearly. I love what he brought to the band on every level. He approached the stage each night like it was his last day alive, man. But it was very evident that time was just not allowing us to do what we wanted to do.

We’ve played with a lot of singers over the last several months, and we felt that we’d be doing ourselves — meaning Robert, Eric and I — a disservice if we didn’t allow all the talent that is out there to become a part of this. So, good or bad, we opened the floodgates.

What are you looking for in a frontperson?
We’ll know when it’s the right person before they’ll even open their mouth, just when they walk into the room. We’re looking to be moved by somebody. You know Glen Campbell said to me a long time ago, “Dean, you got to live it to write it” — and you kind of know when that person walks into a room. I want to be hit in that place in my soul where music buries itself. That feeling, man. That’s what we want.

And you don’t want someone trying to be Scott or Chester.
No. You know, if Steven Tyler calls me, I’d be moved by that [laughs].

Look, here’s how I look at it: A great singer will carry an average band; a great band won’t carry an average singer. So what we’re looking for is a pretty tall order, man. We’ve had the fortune of playing with some of the greatest and most talented singers out there, Tyler being one of them. Robert, Eric and I know what we want, and, like I said earlier, when that person walks into a room, we’ll know.

Other than that moment where that person walks into the door, how will you know when to stop auditioning?
I’m pretty sure we’ll probably cut it off at 30 to 60 days. I think the brunt of it will come in probably the first week or two. Robert, Eric and I are going to be looking at every submission. I think it will be entertaining.

What was it about Chester Bennington that made him a good frontman for Stone Temple Pilots?
I’ve known Chester for a long time. We did some shows together around ‘99 or 2000. I didn’t have to do an audition, per se. When I posed the question to Chester and he replied yes, we were off and running. I was pretty confident he would bring a lot to the table, and he did. The only thing he was unable to bring to the table was time.

Your brother Robert met Scott first. What did he say about Scott as a singer before he joined the band?
It was a few years before I was even in the band, and it was just that Scott had the ability to sing, and sing really well. Robert was moved by that.

How has the band been coping with Scott’s passing?
You know, it’s sad man. It sucks. I wasn’t in much contact at all with Scott for a few years. But I’m reminded and think about him daily. And when I say it’s sad, I’m not referring to Robert, Eric or I; we were divorced and most likely never going to work with Scott again. What really, really bums me out is we all have kids. He’s not going to see his daughter go to her first dance or his son go to his prom or help him parallel park. That’s what really, really brings me down.

“Although Scott and I really didn’t have any type of relationship for the last three years or so, the loss is tragic.”

It’s upsetting.
It’s really, really sad. Look, if you want me to climb up on some sort of high horse right now, I was affiliated with one of the greatest singers, man. I had the luxury and the fortune of making records with one of the greatest singers. My wife is notorious for leaving the radio on in the car; whenever I get in the car lately, there’s an STP song on the radio. And I’m just, “Aww, man.” I’m reminded of him daily and I’m reminded of him at a time when he was vibrant and so full of life and hope, a time when he was electric with creativity and inspiring. That’s when I’m reminded about with him because like I said, man, he and I were pretty much out of touch for at least the past three years. We didn’t see one another or speak.

It’s been quite a few months. It was Scott, and Mr. Bowie decided to leave and then Glenn Frey. People lose loved ones every day around the world. It’s just sad. Any loss is really sad. A guy like Bowie was in my living room since I was 12. When you have that intimacy with those records, I’ve never even met Bowie, but I feel like I had a relationship with him. And although Scott and I really didn’t have any type of relationship for the last three years or so, the loss is tragic. It’s tragic on behalf of children, man.

You said you had a lot of music written. How is that sounding?
There are very heavy elements and there’s elements of it being very ethereal, and there’s a lot of it. So we just want the right person to come in and be able to carry this new material down the road with us.

How many albums’ worth are you talking by “a lot”?
We pretty much have a whole album tracked right now. As far as other material between the three of us, I would say there’s at least a couple more albums there.

So what’s the plan once you find the singer?
I want to record. Then we can go out and play. I love being on the road, man. I love playing music. I absolutely adore it. I love the travel. I love the bus. I love taking in every city. I love playing guitar. I’m just looking forward to giving you guys some new music and rolling into town and climbing the ladder and jumping off.

It sounds like you’ll be back there soon enough.
After I weed through the thousands of applicants [laughs].

It sounds like you guys will have your work cut out for you.
Yeah, yeah. I’m looking forward to it. We’re up for it.


These DREAMers Low-Key Clapback At “Mean Tweets” About Immigration

Since America loves it when celebrities read off “Mean Tweets,” a group of undocumented Latinos decided to create a spin-off of Jimmy Kimmel’s hilarious segment by reacting to insulting tweets about immigration. Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ organization Define American created the visual to encourage the world to have a positive conversation about immigration reform.

READ: John Legend & Juanés Take A Stand For Detained Immigrants

Vargas and the mixed panel of participants hailing from San Francisco-Bay Area held nothing back as they put offensive Twitter users to shame. They responded with quirky, yet telling comebacks to ignorant tweets filled with racial slurs, terrible grammar and arrogant opinions from (somewhat) popular conservatives, such as Ann Coulter.

Watch as these Latinxs clapback at their haters:

READ: #QueridaKellyOsbourne Offers Much Needed Insight Into The Immigrant Plight