Shares in insurance group Hiscox (LSE: HSX) have produced fantastic returns for investors over the last five years. Indeed, the company’s performance has been so exceptional, Hiscox was added to the FTSE 100 as part of the end-of-year re-shuffle.
Unfortunately since then, the stock has struggled to return to its previous highs. It’s currently dealing at around 1,628p, some 5.7% below its 52-week high. However, I think this could be a fantastic opportunity to acquire shares in one of the world’s leading insurance groups ahead of what could be a great year of growth for Hiscox.
Over the past three years, the global insurance market has been under pressure as an influx of capital has pushed down premiums. This has made it harder for companies like Hiscox to earn attractive returns. The good news is, this trend seems to be coming to an end.
In its first-quarter trading update published today, the company reports insurance rates have increased by approximately 4% year-to-date, and management is making the most of this by trying to grow market share in the areas where it has the most experience. As a result of these initiatives, gross written premiums grew by 3.3% in constant currency during the opening quarter of 2019.
If rates continue to rise, Hiscox should be well on the way to meeting City growth forecasts for the year. Analysts have pencilled in earnings per share growth of 153% for 2019, followed by growth of 10% for 2020. These estimates put the stock on a 2020 P/E of 17.5. That might look expensive, but I think it’s a price worth paying when taking the company’s explosive earnings growth into account. For income investors, there’s also a 2.1% dividend yield on offer as well.
Another FTSE 100 growth stock I think it worth snapping up for your portfolio today is Auto Trader (LSE: AUTO).
Shares in this digital automotive marketplace have more than doubled in value over the past 24 months, and I think there’s a strong chance the stock could double again from current levels.
What I really like about Auto Trader is the fact that it’s so cash generative. Last year, the firm generated £187m of cash from operations and only spent £3m on capital spending, giving a total free cash flow of £184m. Management was able to use this cash to reduce debt, buy back stock, and fund the company’s dividend. It’s difficult to ignore these market-leading cash returns, and as earnings continue to expand, I think they’re only going to improve.
Analysts have pencilled in earnings growth of 11% for 2019, and 13% for 2020, putting the stock on a 2020 P/E of 25.9. This might appear expensive, but the company is also trading a price to free cash flow ratio of 26.9, in line with the software and IT services sector average. With this being the case, I think it’s worth snapping up shares in Auto Trader today. There’s a dividend yield of 1.3% on offer for income investors as well.
Of course, picking the right shares and the strategy to be successful in the stock market isn't easy. But you can get ahead of the herd by reading the Motley Fool's FREE guide, "10 Steps To Making A Million In The Market".
The Motley Fool's experts show how a seven-figure-sum stock portfolio is within the reach of many ordinary investors in this straightforward step-by-step guide. Simply click here for your free copy.
Rupert Hargreaves owns no share mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Auto Trader. 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.