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Argus posts $12.6 million profit, reinstates dividend

Argus Group said yesterday it has reinstated its dividend as profit jumped to $12.6 million for the year ended March 31.

That compares to earnings of $1.7 million in the previous fiscal year ended March 31, 2012, and a loss of $6.1 million in the year before that.

As the result of its “strong performance” this year, Argus said it was declaring a dividend of six cents a share.

Argus also said net premiums written fell by two percent, and due to the downturn in the local real estate market it recorded impairments of $2.8 million in its mortgage portfolio.

But Argus noted the company has now eliminated all debt from the Group’s balance sheet.

And investment income and share of earnings/(loss) of associates improved to provide a positive result of $16.5 million, an increase of $18.6 million over the prior year.

Argus said in a statement: “Our equity portfolio has contributed $5.8 million through net unrealised gains and dividend income whilst our bond portfolio has contributed $12 million primarily through interest income and net realised gains during the year. The prolonged economic recession continues to impact the local real estate market, which resulted in the requirement to record impairments of $2.8 million on our mortgage portfolio.”

The company said its positive earnings represented a year of continued recovery for the Argus Group and were achieved against a backdrop of prolonged economic recession, both locally and globally.

Alison Hill, Argus CEO said: “We are pleased that the continued strong performance of our core business operations has produced results for the Argus Group in line with our overall business strategies, and exceeding profit targets across most business lines, in the most recent financial year. Our earnings from operations have once again been generated through achieving very high client retention levels while managing operating expenses closely.

“These positive results allow us to reinstate the payment of a dividend to our valued shareholders following the temporary suspension introduced in July 2011. The Board has declared a dividend of six cents per share payable on September 9, 2013 for shareholders of record on July 15, 2013.

“In the future, the Board anticipates that dividends will be considered on a semi-annual basis to coincide with the six-monthly financial reporting cycles. In normal circumstances, it is intended that this will consist of an interim and final dividend for each fiscal year, or part thereof under review, and be based upon the results as declared for the prior financial year.”

She continued: “After four challenging years, we are satisfied that the Group has achieved improved, positive results from its investments. The board and management remain confident that the Group has now placed the vast majority of its legacy issues firmly in the past and look forward to a return to more ‘normal’ times, with a Balance Sheet that now faces substantially less exposure to risks arising from non-core investments.

“This confidence stems from the continued strong operational performance, strong cash flows and the benefits arising from our sustained efforts over several years to optimise the Balance Sheet and capital structure in a considered and orderly fashion.

“In addition, the Group has made progress with its strategic goal of focusing on markets where Argus can grow and earn higher returns within acceptable risk tolerances. Accordingly, we remain confident that the Argus Group is well positioned for the future.”

Argus said shareholders’ equity now stands at $95.5 million, representing an increase from $83.8 million one year ago, which is substantially in excess of the statutory capital required to conduct the Group’s various insurance and investment related businesses.

The result for the year represents a return on average shareholders’ equity of 13.9 percent compared to 2.04 percent for the previous year. The earnings per share for the year were $0.60 compared to $0.08 last year.

As at March 31, 2013, total assets including Segregated Fund assets stood at $1.9 billion.

Argus said net premiums written decreased by $2.8 million or two percent, reflecting the recessionary environment as many clients have sought ways in which to contain costs by reducing headcount and minimising employee benefits wherever available.

Net Benefits and Claims decreased by one percent as the trend of increasing healthcare costs was offset by lower than expected claims experience primarily in the area of overseas healthcare.

Commissions, management fees and other are in line with the prior year with a modest increase of one percent.

Argus said operating expenses have increased by 12.8 percent over the prior year due to the Group’s commitment to enhance the information systems infrastructure and the strengthening of the management team. Additionally, allowances have been included for the uncollectability of certain receivables across the Group.

Amortisation, depreciation and impairment has increased primarily due to the acceleration of the depreciation charge on certain computer systems that are scheduled to be decommissioned next year, Argus said.

Interest on loan has decreased in the year as the loan taken out to fund the construction of 14 Wesley Street was fully repaid during the year. This eliminates all debt from the Group’s Balance Sheet, Argus said.

Argus and its subsidiaries are multi-line insurance and financial services organisation offering a full range of insurance, pensions and investment products targetted at local and international organisations and individuals. It is the leader in group health insurance and pension plans in Bermuda.

Argus sees profit: Alison Hill, Argus CEO

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Published June 25, 2013 at 11:01 am (Updated June 25, 2013 at 11:01 am)

Argus posts $12.6 million profit, reinstates dividend

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