Merrill Lynch Raises Price Target On XL Group Plc (XL) Stock To $44

According to a research note released on Friday, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) Merrill Lynch has raised the price target on XL Group plc (NYSE:XL) stock from $42 to $44 while reiterating a Buy. The sell-side firm also updated earnings estimates, following XL’s conference call regarding the Catlin acquisition. The firm made several changes to its valuation model, which resulted in a slight decrease in 2015 operating earnings. It also increased fiscal year 2016 (FY16) and 2017 (FY17) earnings estimates. The stock is currently trading down 0.55% at $37.12 as of 1:17 PM EDT.

Merrill Lynch noted that the changes to the model include some additional cost savings and share repurchases sooner than the firm originally anticipated. However, these positive items were partially offset by goodwill amortization, which the firm did not include previously. The firm noted that it had already included additional interest expenses on XL’s new debt.

XL also stated that associated expenses to implement cost savings would be about 125% of the cost savings, and would be one time in nature. The company would include these expenses in the earnings, but the firm excluded these charges from operating earnings per share (EPS) estimates. The firm expects the company to break these expenses out to make them comparable to the firm’s estimates.

Merrill Lynch analyst Jay A. Cohen decreased his 2015 EPS estimate from $3.15 to $3.05. However, he increased his FY16 and FY17 EPS estimates from $3.6 and $4.3 to $3.75 and $4.5, respectively.

According to Bloomberg, 11 analysts rate XL Group stock a Buy, and eight advocate a Hold. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $41.38, showing an upside potential of 11.7% on the current trading price. Since the start of the year, the stock has experienced growth of 6.83% with an average daily trading volume of 3.66 million shares.

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