Net earnings from operations is a non-GAAP financial measure which sets aside items that are generally not considered to be a part of ongoing operations such as realized gains or losses on investments. We believe this non-GAAP measure to be a useful tool for analysts and investors in analyzing ongoing operating trends. As such it will be discussed for various financial periods during this call. A reconciliation of net earnings from net earnings from operations from net income is included in our earnings release.
I'd like to now pass the call to Mr. Michelson.
Thank you Julie and thank you for joining our 2010 first quarter earnings conference call. This morning I'll provide comments on the first quarter results, as well as our recently announced pending acquisition of Vanliner Insurance Company from their parent company UniGroup Inc.We posted solid results for the 2010 first quarter with net income of $0.55 per share, a book value per share increase of 4.6% and a return on equity of 15.2%. This quarters numbers, both topline and earnings require a deeper analysis than usual when coming to last year. In regard to earnings, we are faced with a difficult task of comparing a very good 2010 first quarter to an exceptional 2009 first quarter. 2010 first quarter earnings from operations of $9.2 million or $0.48 were below the 2009 first quarter but consistent with our expectations. Our operating earnings last year were favorably impacted by unusually low claims activity as well as low underwriting expenses. In contrast, the 2010 first quarter experienced more typical claims results and slightly elevated expenses. The net operating earnings variance was primarily driven by underwriting results. Our combined ratio for the 2010 first quarter of 86.5% was 7.5 percentage points higher than the 2009 first quarter but consistent with expectations and with recent quarters. The first quarter of last years with its 79% combined ratio was unusual due to both claims and underwriting expenses falling below the average run rate.