Sage Investment Club

Image source: Getty Images The Legal & General (LSE:LGEN) share price has fallen 14% during the past year. It’s a descent that reflects investor fears that profits could sag as the global economy slows. Spending on life insurance and other financial products can, after all, fall sharply when times get tough. However, as a long-term investor this fall has grabbed my attention. This is because Legal & General shares seem to offer terrific all-round value at current prices around 257p. The FTSE 100 company trades on a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just 7.5 times. This is well below the 13.5 times average for London’s blue-chip index. And Legal & General’s dividend yield for 2023 sits at an enormous 8%. It’s a reading that’s more than double the FTSE index average of 3.7%. A tough environment Of course some stocks trade cheaply for a reason. Low valuations are common among high-risk stocks and this UK share faces considerable headwinds of its own. And as I say, demand for the sorts of products Legal & General sells can dip when consumers feel the pinch. The worry for the FTSE 100 company is that the world economy could perform worse than forecast in 2023 too. By extension, current earnings (and possibly dividend) forecasts for the firm could be in serious peril. Today Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the World Economic Forum, reminded the audience at Davos that “the global economy is in a precarious position”. A poll of analysts conducted by the body also showed that the majority now expect a planet-wide recession this year. Structural opportunities However, this is a risk I would be willing to take. As a long-term investor I believe the chances of Legal & General shares delivering a robust return are very high. First of all the business is strongly placed to capitalise on two structural trends. People are becoming more financially savvy and so sales of investing, retirement and insurance products are rising. What’s more, the size of elderly populations in Legal & General’s key US and European markets are growing rapidly. So the company can expect sales of its pensions, annuities, equity release mortgages and other retirement products specifically to soar in the coming decades. Balance sheet benefits I also like Legal & General because of its excellent record of cash generation. As an income investor this is particularly encouraging as it gives dividend forecasts extra strength. The firm’s Solvency II capital ratio stood between 225% and 230% as of two months ago. Its cash-rich balance sheet also gives the company enhanced scope for acquisitions and investments to drive long-term growth. Last year the company made its first investment in the US to create a real estate platform in the life science, research and technology industries. It has the financial ammunition to make more major investments in growth areas like housing and the green economy too. On balance I believe Legal & General shares could be too cheap to miss right now.

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