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ACE's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Now I’d like to introduce our speakers. First, we have Evan Greenburg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, followed by Phil Bancroft, our Chief Financial Officer; then we’ll take your questions. Also with us to assist with your questions are several members of our management team.

And now it’s my pleasure to turn the call over to Evan.

Evan Greenburg

Good morning. ACE had very good fourth quarter and full-year results, particularly considering the environment, Euro crisis, slow economic growth in developed markets, challenging insurance market conditions, and of course the costliest catastrophe year on record for the industries.

After-tax operating income for the quarter was 663 million or $1.94 per share. The combined ratio for the quarter was 92.9, and this includes 155 million pre-tax catastrophe losses, the overwhelming majority of which came from the Thailand floods. The ex-cat accident year combined ratio was 92, a very good current underwriting year result.

Net premiums in the quarter grew 6% and our operating ROE was nearly 12%. Growth came predominantly from A&H, crop, personal lines, and P&C commercial lines, particularly in Asia and Latin America. Insurance prices in the U.S. continued to firm through the quarter and into January, particularly in classes where industry underwriting results are suffering the most. The balance of classes was flat to up modest single digits with the exception of professional lines where rates declined, but at the slowest pace we’ve seen in a long time. I’ll come back to market conditions later.

Earlier this month, shareholders approved a 34% increase in the common stock dividend. Raising the dividend this amount was, in our judgment, a good use of capital while signaling our confidence in the Company’s strong balance sheet and earnings generation power. This did not compromise or change our view of strategy in any way.

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