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Stewart Title capitalized on refi wave with strong Q4 2020

Shareholders will receive 10% dividend increase

Following an impressive fourth quarter, Stewart Title announced a 10% increase in the company’s annual cash dividend to $1.32 per share.

Fred Eppinger, Stewart CEO, said he asked the company’s Board of Directors for the increase in order to be consistent with shareholders.

“The increased annual dividend is directly related to the strong fourth quarter and year-end revenue growth Stewart saw across all lines of business and by continuing to effectively manage our cost structure to increase our margins,” Eppinger said.

Driven by historic mortgage originations, Stewart reported net income of $59.7 million in the fourth quarter, impressive considering that it only broke even during the fourth quarter of 2019. Operating revenues checked in at $728.3 million, an increase of $215.6 million, or 42%, higher than the third quarter. For the full year, Stewart pulled in $154.9 million in earnings, about double the $78.6 million it made in 2019.

Stewart’s non-commercial domestic title revenue checked in at $239.7 million in the fourth quarter, a 61% jump on the $149.1 million registered in the fourth quarter of 2019. The firm opened nearly 66,000 purchase title orders in the quarter and nearly 81,000 refinancings during the same period. The refi orders doubled from the year prior.

“Our fourth quarter 2020 results were driven by revenue growth across all lines of business and by actively managing our cost structure,” Eppinger said in a statement. “Even with real estate trends remaining strong through the fourth quarter, I was especially encouraged to see solid performance across all major channels, including purchase, refinancing, commercial, international and ancillary services.”

It’s been an eventful few months for the company, which acquired six companies, 57 offices, and an additional 600 employees in September. It also grew its Alaska operations with the acquisition of Yukon Title.

“We’re going to be able to have the depth and capability in those markets to be the best every day,” Eppinger said.

Then, it October, Stewart acquired valuation services company Pro Teck Valuation Intelligence, followed by an announced November partnership with money transfer protection company CertifID and a December acquisition of NotaryCam, a top online notarization provider and mortgage eClosings solutions provider.

Looking to expand not just its physical presence but also its tech offerings, the 2020 HW Tech100 Real Estate winner says it will look to buff up remote online notarization capabilities across industries and geographies with its acquisition of NotaryCam.

“NotaryCam has seen significant growth and adoption over the years, specifically with forward-thinking industry partners like Stewart Title, and today we take the next step in expanding our customer-centric culture to service our individual and enterprise-level customers, across all industries along with the real estate industry, by joining Fred and the Stewart team,” NotaryCam Founder Rick Triola said.

Stewart also added several Western U.S. operations through ET Investments last year, strengthening the company’s presence in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

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