The Aviva (LSE: AV) share price has performed excellently since the start of the pandemic, rising over 80%. This has been driven by strong financial results, the economy recovering more quickly than many had expected and new management making key changes to the business. Recently, the Aviva share price also rose on the news that Europe’s largest activist investor Cevian has built up a 5% stake in it. As such, is this a good time for me to buy more Aviva shares or is it time to bank profits?
The news that Cevian has built a stake in Aviva was met with a positive response from investors. Indeed, the activist investor is now pressing the FTSE 100 insurer to make deeper cost cuts and return £5bn to shareholders. This comes after Aviva raised almost £8bn through selling its non-core businesses.
In terms of cutting costs, Cevian has stated that management’s target of £300m per annum is not ambitious enough. Instead, this should be raised to £500m. By cutting more costs, this should help Aviva become more profitable. Of course, higher profits would have a positive impact on the Aviva share price.
Cevian also believes the Aviva share price could climb to more than 800p in three years. Additionally, it feels that the dividend could more than double to 45p per share. Of course, neither of these are guaranteed, yet it still shows significant optimism from the now-second-largest Aviva shareholder.
What about the current management?
I also believe that management is strong enough to help implement these changes. Indeed, since Amanda Blanc took over last year, she has already helped the company focus on the British, Irish and Canadian markets. This has been accomplished through the aforementioned disposals. Blanc has also demonstrated her desire to move quickly. Although Cevian criticised previous management of the insurer, there is no indication that it wishes to change the current team. I feel that this is the correct decision.
The one risk is that management is pressured into making too many changes, some of them possibly against the long-term interests of the company. For example, by returning too much money to shareholders, Aviva’s growth prospects may be negatively affected. This may limit the upside potential in the Aviva share price. Further, in the case of more economic turmoil, a large payout now may hinder the company’s ability to deal with this sufficiently. This is a risk that must be considered.
Is it time for me to buy more Aviva shares?
At 414p, Aviva shares are no longer as cheap as they once were. Nonetheless, I still think there is upside potential. For instance, the company has recovered more quickly from the pandemic than might have been expected. This has been shown by strong financial results. With a price-to-earnings ratio of 7.7, the shares are also still well-priced. Provided that management can continue simplifying and developing the business, I therefore feel that now is a good time for me to buy more shares. I’m not selling.
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Stuart Blair owns shares in Aviva. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.