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RSA Insurance Group plc Surges 15% As Zurich Insurance Group Ltd Considers Bid

RSA (LSE: RSA) is among the top FTSE 100 gainers so far today after its insurance sector peer Zurich confirmed in an announcement that it is evaluating a possible offer for the company. This is clearly a major development for investors in RSA and, under takeover rules, Zurich will have until 25 August to make an offer for the company. Should it fail to do so, it will be unable to make an offer for at least six months.

Clearly, there has been discussion of the potential for takeovers within the insurance market in recent months, with a combination of low valuations and new rules regarding cash balances making diversification and mergers a more appealing prospect. And, in the last month, shares in RSA have gradually crept up from less than 400p to 450p prior to today’s announcement from Zurich.

Of course, on the one hand a takeover for RSA would be good news for the company’s investors. It is likely to mean a substantial premium to the company’s share price prior to today’s announcement and, for investors looking for a quick gain, this would be a dream scenario. However, for longer term investors, the company’s new strategy holds considerable promise and it could be argued that there is significant potential for further capital gains in 2016 and beyond without RSA being taken over.

In fact, RSA’s new management team, led by Stephen Hester, is doing a very good job of rationalising the business and shoring up its financial standing. As such, RSA is set to return to profitability in the current year and post earnings growth of 7% next year. This shows that the company is moving in the right direction and, with RSA trading on a price to book (P/B) ratio of just 1.16 even after today’s share price move, it appears to be very cheap at the present time. As a result, share price appreciation over the medium to long term appears to be very much on the cards without a bid.

Furthermore, RSA looks set to become an excellent dividend stock once more, with its shareholder payouts having the potential to increase at a rapid rate over the medium term. For example, it may yield only 2.1% after today’s share price rise but, with dividends being covered almost three times by net profit, there is tremendous scope for their rise moving forward. And, when earnings growth is also factored in, RSA could return to its status as a great income play in the years ahead.

Certainly, the fact that RSA is the subject of considerable takeover speculation shows that the company is turning its fortunes around after the accounting scandal and profit warnings that occurred in recent years. However, there could still be considerable value to be unlocked, which means that investors in the company seem to be in a win-win situation so that they stand to benefit whether a bid is made for the company, or not.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of RSA Insurance Group. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.