St. Paul Cos.


said it failed to meet Wall Street's expectations for the fourth quarter, missing the estimate badly, even as the insurance provider said its core business performed better than projected.

The company said operating earnings fell to $144.4 million, or 61 cents a share, from $155.9 million, or 64 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Seventeen analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

were expecting St. Paul to earn 74 cents in the quarter. St. Paul attributed most of the decline to an increase in the effective tax rate in 2000.

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Revenue, including realized gains, rose to $2.22 billion from $1.94 billion.

The St. Paul, Minn., company also said it expects operating earnings for 2001 to be between $3 and $3.25 a share. Analysts polled by First Call are forecasting earnings of $3.23 a share for 2001.

Shares of St. Paul lost 13 cents, or 0.3%, to $46.63 in recent

New York Stock Exchange