By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., the Hartford, Conn.-based property/casualty and life insurance giant, reported fourth-quarter 2009 net income of $557 million, compared with a fourth-quarter 2008 net loss of $806 million. Core earnings for the fourth quarter were $689 million, compared with a loss of $208 million in the prior year period, the company also announced.
"The Hartford's fourth-quarter results represent a return to profitability," said Liam E. McGee, Hartford's chairman, president and CEO, in a press release. "Both life and property/casualty businesses reported net income, and this is the third sequential quarter of improving core earnings. Additionally, we ended the year in a strong capital position."
Fourth-quarter income from the company's specialty commercial lines business was up 40 percent to $81 million over the year-ago period--but down 51 percent to $72 million in the middle market segment, down 14 percent to $144 million in the small commercial segment, and down 67 percent to $66 million in the personal lines segment, the company also reported.
"Although the company posted strong earnings in the fourth quarter, the economy and market conditions remain uncertain," McGee said.
The company also reported fourth-quarter property/casualty premiums of $2.4 billion, down from $2.5 billion in the year-ago period.
CNA Financial Corp., the nation's seventh largest property/casualty underwriter, announced fourth-quarter 2009 net income of $246 million, compared with a loss of $335 million in the year-ago period.
"In our core property/casualty operations, the specialty segment continued to deliver very strong performance," said Thomas F. Motamed, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based CNA, in a prepared statement. "In the commercial segment, our underwriting improvement strategies are starting to show in the form of fourth-quarter renewal rate increases, higher submission volume and hit ratios in our target classes of business."
Soft pricing continued to put pressure on revenues and margins, added Motamed, in a press release.
Net written property/casualty premium from the company's core specialty and commercial lines business in the fourth quarter dipped to $1.4 billion from $1.5 billion in the year-earlier period, the company also reported.
XL Capital Ltd., the Bermuda commercial and specialty lines insurer, reported a fourth-quarter 2009 net loss of $40.3 million, up from a loss of $1.4 billion in the year-ago period. The fourth-quarter loss, the company said, stemmed mainly from after-tax losses of more than $254 million from bad investments.
The company, according to XL Capital CEO Mike McGavick in a press release, spent part of the fourth quarter selling risky assets to rebalancing XL's investment portfolio "to one more typical of a property/casualty company,"--i.e., one with less volatility. The rebalancing of the portfolio is 80 percent complete, McGavick added
Fourth-quarter net premiums written of $965 million were down from $984 million in the year-ago period, the company also reported. This was due to the company reducing its exposures to certain business lines, exiting others entirely or declining to underwrite a risk because pricing was deemed too low, the company also said in a statement.
W.R. BERKLEY CORP.
W. R. Berkley Corp., the Greenwich, Conn.-based commercial insurance and reinsurance carrier, reported net income for the fourth quarter of 2009 of $134 million, or 81 cents per share, compared with $40 million, or 24 cents per share, for the fourth quarter of 2008, the company said.
"We are pleased with our results for the quarter," said Chairman and CEO William R. Berkley, in a statement.
He also noted that the company's book of business "continues to modestly shrink."
"It is still hard to find new business that is attractively priced in the current marketplace," Berkley stated. "However, we are beginning to see improving price trends in selected lines of business."
The company reported fourth-quarter net written premiums of $828 million, down from $888 million in the year-ago period.
February 16, 2010
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