Shares of recent IPO Symetra Financial decline as analysts begin coverage

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Symetra falls as analysts begin coverage

NEW YORK — Symetra Financial Corp. shares dipped Wednesday as several investment banks began coverage of the insurance company at “Neutral” or similar ratings.

The Bellevue, Wash. based company operates four main businesses: medical stop loss, deferred fixed annuities, income annuities and life insurance. It began trading on Jan. 22 at $12. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. retained a stake in the company.

Barclays analyst Eric N. Berg gave the stock an “Equal Weight” rating, saying he likes the company, but rivals Lincoln National Corp. and Protective Life Corp. are better values. He has a $13 target price on shares.

While Symetra has a strong financial position and conservative portfolio, its quarterly results have been volatile, JPMorgan analyst Jimmy S. Bhullar wrote in a client note. He also prefers other names in the industry, including Reinsurance Group of America Inc. and Torchmark Corp. Bhullar rates shares “neutral” with a $14 target price.

Separately, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and Wells Fargo began coverage of the stock at a “market perform” rating.

Shares fell 32 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $12.73.

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