Assurant Boosts Buyback Effort by $600 Million

Assurant (NYSE:AIZ) bolstered its share buyback program by $600 million on Monday in the latest move that represents a show of confidence by the specialty insurer.

The action allowed shares of New York-based Assurant to outperform the broader markets, which sold off in early trading.

Assurant, which provides health, life and other insurance products, said its board of directors has signed off on plans to increase its share repurchase program by $600 million. The program had just $170 million remaining.

"Assurant's disciplined share repurchase strategy illustrates our commitment to deliver significant value to our shareholders,” CEO Robert Pollock said in a statement.

As of the end of last month, Assurant said it had bought back 3.3 million shares this year, totaling about $135 million.

The move comes days after Assurant unveiled a 17% hike to its quarterly dividend to 21 cents a share.

Last month Assurant beat the Street with a 16% jump in first-quarter earnings amid broad-based growth across its business lines.

“Our strong capital position provides the flexibility needed to repurchase shares, raise dividends to shareholders and pursue strategic acquisitions to achieve profitable growth," Pollock said.

Shares of Assurant traded flat at $37.81, compared with a 1.13% decline on the S&P 500 amid continued jitters about the eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Assurant’s shares have slumped 8% so far this year and lost 2% of their value over the past 12 months.