To make sure that buying a dream home doesn't become a nightmare, Fidelity National Financial provides title insurance, escrow, home warranties, and other services related to real estate transactions. It is now the biggest dog in the residential and commercial title insurance sectors, (the next largest player is First American) and accounts for 35% of all title insurance policies in the US. The company operates through underwriters including Fidelity National Title Company, Chicago Title, Commonwealth Land Title, and Alamo Title. It sells its products both directly and through independent agents. Fidelity National has also grown its holdings in casual restaurant chains.
Fidelity National Financial's insurance businesses operate exclusively within the US. Naturally, the biggest markets are in states with the greatest populations: California, Texas, and New York account for more than a third of its title insurance premiums. The company has international operations in the Asia/Pacific, Europe, and the Americas through its minority interest in an auto parts manufacturing business.
Title insurance is typically one of the most stable types of insurance written. It is folded into the piles of paperwork homebuyers sign during closings, with little or no fuss. Even though US home sales remain sluggish, the company has stayed busy from the brisk pace of refinancing of existing mortgages.
Title insurance premiums account for more than three-fourths of Fidelity National Financial's revenues, but the company also maintains a small handful of other operations completely outside of the title insurance industry. These include a 51% stake in auto parts manufacturer Remy International and a minority interest in Ceridian, a payroll and HR services firm. It has also committed to expanding its holdings in casual and upscale dining restaurants though its 55% ownership of American Blue Ribbon Holdings and its 87% stake in J. Alexander's.
Sales and Marketing
Fidelity National Financial uses direct sales representatives and independent agents to market its title and escrow products to residential and commercial real estate customers. The company maintains some 1,200 retail offices to provide residential title insurance It markets its commercial title insurance a network of 5,000 agents in major urban real estate markets.
While the company is basically sound, Fidelity National Financial's revenues are hampered by stiffness in the residential mortgage lending market. Recent earnings have fluctuated: The company reported a 49% spike in revenues to $7.2 billion in 2012, after falling 8% to $4.8 million in 2011. Rising sales in 2012 reflected gains from the auto parts and restaurant operations (and gains on consolidation efforts within those divisions), as well as from higher sales of title and escrow products. The decrease in 2011 mostly reflected recent divestitures.
The company has steadily increased profits in recent years, including a 64% increase to $606.5 million in 2012 due to higher revenues.
Fidelity National Financial is now so dominant within the title insurance industry that any attempt to grow larger there would draw the scrutiny of regulators. While keeping its eye on strengthening its existing title insurance operations, the company is focused on diversifying by buying up non-insurance related businesses. After bulking up on restaurant operations through recent acquisitions, Fidelity National Financial aims to increase same-store sales and guest counts and reach long-term profit growth within its restaurant operations. The company is conducting some consolidation efforts within the division to assist with these goals.
To raise a bit of cash for diversification, the company sold its profitable flood insurance business to WRM America Holdings for $210 million in late 2011. It then sold all but 15% of Fidelity National Property Casualty Insurance, its personal lines business, to WT Holdings for some $119 million in 2012.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In late 2012 Fidelity National Financial acquired the Nashville-based J. Alexander's chain of 33 restaurants. Then, in 2013 it transferred the Stoney River steak restaurants (previously operated by its majority owned American Blue Ribbon Holdings unit) to the J. Alexander entity, transferring a minority stake in J. Alexander's to American Blue Ribbon Holdings through the deal. Other restaurant growth and consolidation efforts include the $304 million purchase of O'Charley's in 2012; following the transaction O'Charley's was merged into American Blue Ribbon Holdings in 2012. Through the deal, Fidelity National Financial increased its stake in American Blue Ribbon Holdings from 45% to 55%.
In addition, Fidelity National Financial increased its stake in Remy from 47% to 51% during 2012 to take advantage of growth opportunities within that operating segment.
Within the core insurance segment, the company added administrative service capabilities by purchasing Digital Insurance, an electronic platform for health plan distribution and benefits management for small and midsized businesses, for some $98 million in 2012. It also agreed to buy Lender Processing Services in 2013.
Like all title insurers, Fidelity National Financial shivered when the big chill hit the real estate market in 2008. But, while the company slowed it remained quick enough to take advantage of opportunities. When its ailing rival LandAmerica Financial Group filed Chapter 11 in 2008, the company bought up the choicer bits for $235 million. This purchase helped make it into the largest title insurer in the US and caught the attention of the FTC, prompting the company to divest a few holdings to soothe the agency's nerves. The 2009 sale of Fidelity National Capital only brought in $50 million, but took $214 million of debt off company ledgers. The 2010 sale of its 32% stake in Sedgwick Claims Management brought in some $225 million.
The current company arose in 2006 when a previous company, also named Fidelity National Financial, split apart its title insurance operations from its information services business. What had been Fidelity National Title Group took on its former parent's name, while Fidelity National Information Services took on the former parent's remaining operations. The two companies share a history and some stray holdings, but are otherwise separate.