Investor blasts Baldwin & Lyons’ strategy

A New York-based investment firm today said that locally based insurer Baldwin & Lyons Inc. is wildly overcapitalized and encouraged the company to use its surplus to make a large dividend to shareholders.

Loeb Partners, which owns 5.4 percent of the trucking insurer’s Class B stock, estimated that the company has $22 million in excess capital it could pay out to shareholders. It said Baldwin has underperformed peer companies, a shortcoming it could remedy with better use of its capital.

Loeb implored the company to engage in “corporate introspection,” which it said should include setting up an independent committee of directors to explore selling the company or issuing special dividends.

“We hope that this letter does not make you recoil in anger such that you produce an array of charts, statistics, and other mechanisms to defend what is clearly poor stock performance and a senseless balance sheet,” Loeb said in a letter to the company, which it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We do not wish to engage in a rancorous battle of endless press releases. We just want our board and management to stop getting in the way of the stock trading for what it is worth.”

A Baldwin & Lyons official was not immediately available for comment.

Baldwin & Lyons’ Class B shares were trading late this afternoon at $21.09, down 13 cents on the day. The company has a stock market value of $323 million.

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