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Aspen posts loss amid insurance overhaul

Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd made an operating loss of $7.4 million, or 34 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, partly as a result of a repositioning of its insurance segment.

For the year, the Bermudian-based re/insurer's net income was $203.4 million, compared to $323.1 million in 2015.

Losses from Hurricane Matthew, an earthquake in New Zealand and wildfires in Tennessee impacted the company's bottom line. The final-quarter net loss of $71.5 million compared to a $117.9 million profit in the same period in 2015.

The loss had been expected, but was worse than many analysts had forecast. One consensus view for had reckoned on a loss of 5 cents per share.

The group's combined ratio for the quarter jumped to 106.7 per cent, meaning the company made a loss of 6.7 cents on every premium dollar after paying claims and expenses. That compared with 91.8 per cent combined ratio in the same period the year before.

Aspen's full year combined ratio was 98.1 per cent. The insurance segment had a combined ratio of 99.6 per cent, up from 96.1 per cent. The reinsurance division managed 90 per cent, compared to 80.4 per cent in 2015. In a statement, Chris O'Kane, chief executive officer, said: “While the repositioning of our insurance segment had a significant negative impact on the fourth quarter's results, we are confident that the actions taken are the right ones and that the underlying quality of our book of business is very strong.

“We remain intensely focused on driving growth and profitability by offering innovative solutions to meet our clients' needs and risks, diversifying and expanding our global product offering, and enhancing capital efficiency.

“Our business is now firmly on course for the next stage of profitable growth.”

Then, during an earnings conference call yesterday, he further explained that the company had identified elements of business that it had decided not to continue to write, and had decreased underwriting “a great deal of primary casualty business”.

He said: “In all, approximately $150 million of insurance business, or just under 5 per cent of our total underwriting portfolio, fell outside the refocused underwriting guidelines and was not renewed.”

Aspen purchased $10 million of additional reinsurance coverage to protect itself from the run-off of some of the discontinued business.

When asked about the potential for a sale of the company, Mr O'Kane said he was very confident about Aspen's future.

“We have a pretty strong franchise in reinsurance already. We have an improving franchise in insurance.”

He said Aspen was a “successful operation relative to peers and is one that we want to carry on running”.

Aspen CEO Chris O'Kane

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Published February 10, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated February 10, 2017 at 8:28 am)

Aspen posts loss amid insurance overhaul

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