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Watson: Argo Group performed as planned

Argo Group CEO: Mark Watson

Argo Group International Holdings achieved operating income of $23.5 million, or 68 cents per share, in the third quarter, beating analysts’ estimate of 56 cents.

The operating income was 141 per cent higher than the same period last year.

Profit for the quarter was $40.6 million, or $1.17 per share, compared to a loss of $61.3 million a year ago.

Mark Watson, chief executive officer of the Bermudian-based company, said: “At the beginning of 2018, following the integration of Ariel Re, we restructured our reinsurance programme to mitigate risk exposure to catastrophe events and reduce earnings volatility.

“In this year’s third quarter, the industry was hit by heavy catastrophe losses on a global basis. At Argo, our programme performed as planned. The company produced an overall underwriting profit for the quarter, and operating earnings of $23.5 million or $0.68 per diluted share.”

The company had gross written premiums of $839.9 million, which was up 4.3 per cent year-on-year. The combined ratio was 99.7 per cent. Catastrophe losses for the quarter were $24.4 million.

Mr Watson said: “Our US operations are generating strong profitable premium growth reflecting our strategic growth and digital initiatives. In our international operations, we are targeting growth in select markets, taking corrective underwriting actions in lines of business where needed, and utilising third-party capital to support our reinsurance business.

“The combination of improving margins, top-line growth, and strong investment results should generate improved returns for our shareholders, as we’ve already seen evidenced this quarter, with a 9 per cent annualised return on equity.”

During the third quarter, Argo Group repurchased 156,456 shares for $9.6 million. The book value per share at the end of September was $53.63.