W.R. Berkley Corporation’s WRB fourth-quarter 2019 operating income of 72 cents per share came in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate. The bottom line improved 18% year over year on higher premiums written.
Behind the Headlines
W.R. Berkley’s net premiums written were $1.6 billion, up 9.3% year over year. Higher premiums written at both the Insurance and Reinsurance & Monoline Excess segments contributed to this upside.
Operating revenues of $1.8 billion were up 3.8% year over year, mainly owing to higher net premiums earned. However, the same missed the consensus estimate by 5.8%.
Investment income decreased 14.1% year over year to $137.3 million due to weak performance of investment funds compared with strong returns in the year-ago quarter.
Total expenses inched up 2.3% to $1.8 billion, primarily on higher losses and loss expenses.
Catastrophe loss totaled $20.4 million in the quarter, reflecting a 55% plunge year over year. Consolidated combined ratio (a measure of underwriting profitability) was 93.3%, contracting 260 basis points year over year.
W.R. Berkley Corporation Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise
W.R. Berkley Corporation price-consensus-eps-surprise-chart | W.R. Berkley Corporation Quote
Net premiums written at the Insurance segment grew 8.2% year over year to $1.5 billion in the quarter. Combined ratio contracted 290 bps year over year to 93%.
Net premiums written in the Reinsurance & Monoline Excess segment increased 18.9% year over year to $175.6 million. Combined ratio contracted 50 bps year over year to 95.5%.
W.R. Berkley exited the fourth quarter with total assets worth $26.6 billion, up 7% from the 2018-end figure.
Book value per share improved 11.4% from the level at 2018 end to $33.12 as of Dec 31, 2019.
Cash flow from operations totaled $348.7 million in the quarter, up 25.6% year over year.
The company’s return on equity contracted 100 bps year over year to 8.8%.
Share Repurchase Update
In the quarter under review, the company returned $158 million of ordinary and special dividends to its shareholders and bought back shares worth $18 million.
For 2019, return on equity was 12.5%.
The company’s total shareholder value addition came in at $326 million in the form of share buybacks and ordinary and special dividends.
Net premiums written for the year increased 6.7% year over year to $6.8 billion.
Total revenues for 2019 summed $7.9 billion, up 2.7% year over year.
Zacks Rank and Performance of Other Players
W.R. Berkley sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Among other players from the insurance industry having reported fourth-quarter earnings so far, the bottom-line results of Brown & Brown, Inc. BRO and RLI Corp. RLI beat estimates while that of Principal Financial PFG matched the Zacks Consensus Estimate.
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