Aflac stock faces headwinds

Dumping risky investments from its portfolio has proven draining for Aflac’s stock price over the last few weeks, with shares off nearly 25 percent from their March 1 high of $59.54.

They closed down 61 cents per share at $44.87 Wednesday. Dan Amos, chairman and chief executive officer of the Columbus-based supplemental insurer, said in an interview this week that a recent “analyst day” gathering at which he noted the firm’s de-risking efforts could hinder earnings growth sharply in 2012 appears to have contributed to the decline.

Though Aflac has not put out official guidance for next year, the CEO remarked to the stock market analysts that earnings growth over 2011 could range from 0 percent to 5 percent. That’s down from an 8 percent to 12 percent range this year.

“I went through the process that, since the financial crisis, how much we had de-risked already, but wanted to accelerate it this year and move on to something else,” Amos said.

The point, he said, was to let the market experts know the company would continue to shed dicey investments, but still be able to increase its dividend and earnings per share in 2012. The company’s annual dividend has gone up 28 straight years, with Amos expecting it do so again this year.

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