Yesterday, AEGON's ADRs closed trading at $4.19, down $0.04, or 0.95 percent over the previous trading day. The current 52 week range is between $3.90 and $8.07, while analysts' consensus one year target price is at $9, indicating significant profit potential. Should you profit from investors' excess fear toward the European financial sector by buying ADRs such as AEG?
AEGON NV (AEG) is one of the world's largest life insurance and pension companies. Its three major markets are the U.S., the Netherlands and the U.K., in addition to smaller operations in countries including Hungary, Canada, Spain, China, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Relatively higher dependence on the Americas, a key negative
The group generates revenue through four geographical business divisions: Americas (42.7 percent of total revenue during FY2010), the U.K. (30.7 percent), the Netherlands (19.6 percent) and the UK (7 percent). The Americas segment, which includes U.S. and Canadian operations, contributed 71 percent to underlying earnings in 2010. The Netherlands accounted for 17 percent of underlying earnings, the U.K. for 3.2 percent, and the rest of the world for 8.9 percent.
Declining market share in the US fixed annuity market, another key negative
The major product lines in the U.S. includes traditional life policies (universal life, term life, accident and health), annuities (fixed and variable), life reinsurance, and a pension segment that is active in the 401(k) and similar product areas. In life, Aegon ranked in the top 10 in different universal life categories and fifth in term life. In early 2009, Aegon put its U.S. institutional business into run-off to reduce credit risk and release capital. Aegon was one of the largest writers of GICS (guaranteed investment contracts), the major product in this segment. Annuities have been important to reported new business profits, but have suffered from guarantee costs and credit losses.
Aegon expanded fixed annuity sales in the U.S. in 2009, but sales fell sharply in 2010 due to low interest rates. From being 17th ranked with only a 2 percent market share in 2007, Aegon rose to sixth place with a 6 percent share in the first quarter of 2009, but the company fell back to the 16th ranked fixed annuity provider position in 2010. The sales profile coincided with Aegon putting its institutional spread business into run-off in early 2009. Fixed annuity inflows provided some offset to the envisaged decline in credit assets within its U.S. general account and helped Aegon avoid selling credit market assets at depressed prices. However, the maintenance of high cash balances within the general account over this period led to depressed investment returns.