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Ace net income falls 23% — but earnings beat the Street

Global re/insurer Ace Ltd beat Wall Street's expectations as it recorded net income of $734 million for the first quarter.

Operating income was $2.27 per share, compared to the $2.12 per share consensus expectation of analysts tracked by Yahoo Finance, and also edging higher than the $2.17 per share achieved in the same quarter last year.

However, net income was down 23 percent from the $953 million recorded in the first quarter of last year.

Book value increased 2.4 percent during the first three months of the year to $86.90 per share.

Operating return on equity for the quarter was 11.2 percent. The property and casualty (P&C) combined ratio for the quarter was 88.8 percent.

Evan Greenberg, chairman and chief executive officer of Ace Ltd, said: “Ace had an excellent first quarter and a very good start to the year. After-tax operating income of $777 million was driven by both strong underwriting and investment income results, which generated an operating ROE of 11.2 percent.

“Underwriting results were particularly strong in the quarter, with underwriting income up seven percent and a P&C combined ratio of 88.8 percent. Underwriting income benefited from excellent current accident year underwriting income growth before catastrophe losses of 17 percent as a result of double-digit growth in earned premium and improved margin.

“Premium revenue growth across the company was exceptionally strong, with total P&C net premiums up 12 percent, or nearly 14 percent in constant dollars. In North America, our P&C business grew 11 percent in the quarter and continued to achieve positive rate increases with overall pricing up in casualty-related lines and down in property-related.

“Internationally, where our P&C business grew more than 12 percent in constant dollars, pricing was generally flat. Commercial P&C market conditions globally are stable but growing more competitive. This is not a surprise — we are a disciplined organisation and prepared. Given our excellent diversification by product, geography and distribution, many areas of our business have attractive growth prospects, and as a result we are confident in our ability to outperform.”

Gross premiums written in the first three months of the year were $5.37 billion, up from the $4.96 billion recorded in the same period of last year.

Ace's agricultural sector showed gains, with net premiums rising to $194 million from $113 million. However, the company recorded an underwriting loss in from agricultural business of $31 million. The agriculture combined ratio — the proportion of premium dollars spent on claims and expenses — rose to 130.3 percent from 79.3 percent last year.

Ace's global reinsurance business saw net premiums written increased 10.3 percent for the quarter. The combined ratio was 72.9 percent compared with 67.3 percent.

Ace CEO Evan Greenberg

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Published May 02, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 01, 2014 at 9:44 pm)

Ace net income falls 23% — but earnings beat the Street

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