Investors Title Company today announced its results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2011. For the quarter, net income decreased 20.6% to $1,879,459, or $0.88 per diluted share, compared with $2,368,550, or $1.04 per diluted share, for the prior year period. For the year, net income increased 8.8% to $6,933,936, or $3.20 per diluted share, compared with $6,372,626, or $2.78 per diluted share, for the prior year.
The decrease in net income for the quarter was driven primarily by lower premium volumes, partially offset by lower operating expenses and a reduction in the effective income tax rate. Operating expenses decreased 2.5% to $18,174,594 versus the prior year period due both to lower levels of variable expenses which follow premiums as well as reductions in certain overhead expenses.
The increase in net income for the year was driven primarily by premium revenue growth and favorable claims experience. Net premiums written increased 32.6% to $81,529,333 versus the prior year, mainly as a result of the Company’s expansion into Texas in late 2010. Operating expenses increased 29.5% to $81,186,220 versus the prior year period, primarily due to an increase in commissions to agents and other expenses which fluctuate with revenues. Commissions to agents increased 59.0%, commensurate with the growth in agency premiums and reflective of an increase in agent business from markets with higher premium rates, primarily Texas. The provision for claims as a percentage of net premiums written was lower compared with the prior year due to an adjustment for favorable loss development in prior policy years, as well as a decline in the relative share of North Carolina business as a percentage of the total versus the prior year period. Since North Carolina’s premium rates are less than half the national average, the resulting loss ratio for North Carolina business is higher than for our other markets.