Salomon Smith Barney upgraded Amerus Group (AMH ) to outperform from in-line.
On Friday the life insurance company posted 92 cents fourth quarter earnings per share (excluding items). Analyst Lisa Fasano says she considers Amerus to be the best small-cap idea. She upgraded on increased comfort with the company's stable fundamentals, attractive valuation, solid capital base, and appealing business franchise. She notes Ameurs has grown into a top 15-ranked writer of fixed life insurance, and a top 10-ranked writer of fixed annuities (both based on sales). At the current valuation, she views the stock as compelling.
Fasano says her $34 target, at 8.9 times the esimated 2003 earnings per share, represents a 29% potential upside. She notes fourth quarter earnings per share is in line with her estimate.