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Axis posts $212m profit

Axis Capital Holdings Ltd last night posted third-quarter net income of $212 million as the re/insurer took a hit of more than $90 million from catastrophe losses.

The profit, which broke down to $1.66 per share, was down 11.3 percent from last year.

Axis, one of the post-9/11 start-ups which is celebrating its tenth birthday this year, said estimated pre-tax net losses of $65 million related to Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and flooding in Denmark. In addition, it booked another $26 million related to catastrophes that took place earlier in the year, including the February New Zealand earthquake and June aftershock and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Net income of $212 million compared with $239 million, or $1.78 per share, for the third quarter of 2010.

For the first nine months of the year, Axis reported a net loss of $71 million, or $0.58 per share, compared to net income available to common shareholders of $556 million, or $4.04 per diluted common share, for the corresponding period in 2010.

Operating income for the quarter was $95 million compared to $189 million last year. This broke down to 74 cents per share, just missing the 76 cents expected by analysts polled by Bloomberg.

“In the quarter, we achieved a modest increase in diluted book value per share and generated operating income of $95 million, driven by strong underwriting results producing a combined ratio of 91.5 percent,” said Axis CEO John Charman.

“Our net written premiums increased by more than eight percent in the quarter, as our underwriting units fought hard to find opportunities to grow profitably. Our results were, however, adversely impacted by a reduction in the valuation of our alternative investments due to the extreme volatility in the financial markets as well as continued pressure on new money yields.

“In the short-tail and speciality lines, we are seeing the market momentum moving away from price reductions toward gradual and deliberate price increases. As the market factors in investment yields, which are at all-time lows, we expect this positive momentum to accelerate as well as to spread more broadly into the professional and casualty lines.

“We have the capital and the embedded experience, as well as the organisational breadth and depth, to strongly and nimbly address opportunities that present themselves if market pricing meets or exceeds levels commensurate with our view of risk.

“Because conditions in the various business lines we write are mixed and are likely to evolve at various speeds, we expect to balance deployment of capital in underwriting opportunities with share repurchase through organic earnings.”

The company wrote more business during the July through September period, with gross premiums written climbing 11 percent to $835 million.

The company’s combined ratio of 91.5 percent compared to 85.6 percent in the same period a year earlier. Axis said net favourable prior year reserve development was $78 million, pre-tax, benefiting the combined ratio by 9.4 points.

Net investment income totalled $49 million, a decrease of 56 percent compared to last year.

Shareholders’ equity at September 30 was $5.4 billion, while book value per share increased to $37.06 from $36.78 three months earlier, but down six percent from $39.37 at the end of 2010.

Axis Capital CEO John Charman

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Published November 02, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated November 02, 2011 at 9:40 am)

Axis posts $212m profit

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