Progressive to Buy Transportation Insurer Protective for $338 Million

By | February 16, 2021

The Progressive Corp. is acquiring Indiana-based trucking industry insurer Protective Insurance Corp. in a move that will increase its stake in the commercial lines insurance market.

Progressive has agreed to pay $23.30 per share in cash, for a total transaction value of approximately $338 million. The per share price represents a 49.1% premium and 63.2% premium, respectively, to Protective’s share prices as measured on February 12, 2021.

Protective Insurance Corp., founded in 1930, is the publicly-traded holding company for several property/casualty insurance subsidiaries including Protective Insurance Co., Sagamore Insurance Co. and Protective Specialty Insurance Co. The subsidiaries provide liability and workers’ compensation coverage for trucking and public transportation fleets of all sizes, along with trucking industry independent contractors.

In May, Protective Insurance Corp. reported that a special committee of independent directors has been formed to evaluate a sale agreement offered by certain shareholders and other parties. The offering parties were not identified.

New Ventures, Driver Shortage Among Challenges in Trucking Insurance Market

The positive trend– a rapid increase in the demand for trucking– is being undermined by a driver shortage in a tight labor market.

Protective Insurance Co. is licensed in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and all Canadian provinces and provides coverage for trucking fleets of all sizes.

Sagamore is licensed in 49 states and provides commercial auto coverage to small trucking fleets and artisan contractors, and workers’ compensation coverage to small and medium-sized transportation-focused businesses via the independent agency system.

Protective Specialty provides excess and surplus lines products in 48 states.

Through the end of nine months of 2020, Protective reported net premiums written were at $320 million and a net loss of $7.4 million, reflecting in part the effects of the pandemic on the trucking sector. The third quarter itself saw improvements — net income of $3.3 million– due to actions taken to improve underwriting results, including non-renewal of unprofitable business and significant rate increases in commercial automobile, according to Jeremy Johnson, Protective’s CEO.

For full year 2019, Protective reported net premiums written of $447 million and net income of $7.4 million with a 106.80 combined ratio. Premium growth in 2019 was only 1.8% compared with 26% in 2018, 30% in 2017 and 7% in 2016.

But “given ongoing profitability challenges,” CEO Johnson announced the insurer would discontinue writing new public transportation business effective the fourth quarter of 2020.

The move allows Progressive to add products for larger fleets and brings expertise in workers’ compensation coverage for the transportation industry, which are new areas of business for Progressive.

“As a leader in commercial auto insurance, we’re excited to expand our capabilities with the expertise Protective offers in larger fleet and affinity programs and by providing additional product lines for us to add to our portfolio,” said Karen Bailo, Commercial Lines president for Progressive.

Keefe Bruyetts & Woods analyst Meyer Shields, who follows Progressive, commented that the deal will “modestly” broaden the insurer’s product offerings. He noted that Protective, along with others writing commercial auto, has underperformed in recent years. However, Shields believes that rising commercial lines rates and Progressive’s analytical capabilities will “quickly produce better results.”

According to 2018 figures from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Progressive is the largest commercial auto insurance writer with about an 11% share of the market, followed by Travelers, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide and Berkshire Hathaway.

Progressive said it plans to maintain Protective’s offices in Carmel, Indiana and retain Protective’s employees.

The acquisition is expected to close prior to the end of the third quarter of 2021.

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