Loews (L)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 31, 2011 11:00 am ET


Peter W. Keegan - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Darren Daugherty -

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James S. Tisch - Chief Executive Officer, President, Member of Office of the President, Director, Member of Executive Committee, Member of Finance Committee, Chairman of Diamond Offshore and Director of CNA


David J. Adelman - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Robert Glasspiegel - Langen McAlenney

Sam Yake - BGB Securities, Inc., Research Division



Good morning. My name is Melissa, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Loews Third Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I will now turn the conference over to Darren Daugherty, Director of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Darren Daugherty

Thank you, Melissa. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Loews Corporation's Third Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call. A copy of the earnings release may be found on our website, loews.com. On the call this morning are Chief Executive Officer, Jim Tisch; and Chief Financial Officer, Peter Keegan. Following our prepared remarks this morning, we will have a question-and-answer session.

Before we begin, however, I will remind you that this conference call might include statements that are forward looking in nature. Actual results achieved by the company may differ materially from those projections made in any forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements reflect circumstances at the time they are made, and the company expressly disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. This disclaimer is only a brief summary of the company's

statutory forward-looking statements disclaimer, which is included in the company's filings with the SEC.

During the call today, we might also discuss non-GAAP financial measures. Please refer to our security filings for reconciliations to the most comparable GAAP measures. I will now turn the call over to Loews' Chief Executive Officer, Jim Tisch.

James S. Tisch

Thank you, Darren, and good morning, and thanks for joining us on our call today. Loews reported net income of $162 million for this year's third quarter compared to $36 million for the third quarter of 2010. Results for the prior year quarter included a $328 million after-tax charge related to CNA's agreement to cede its legacy, specialist and solution liabilities to a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. Excluding that charge, net income for the quarter decreased by $202 million versus the prior year quarter, primarily from 3 factors: one, decreased limited partnership investment results at CNA; two, lower performance of equity-based investment in the Loews holding company portfolio; and three, higher natural catastrophe losses at CNA.

Setting aside these factors, our subsidiaries delivered solid performance in their operation. At CNA, the growth strategies that has been put in place are resulting in continued improvement in the fundamental of its core property and casualty operation. Increased net written premium has marked the third consecutive quarter of topline growth, which was driven by strong new business and high retention. Along with this growth trend, CNA continues to achieve rate improvement particularly in its commercial segment.

Third quarter combined ratios before catastrophes and development improved for both specialty and commercial, while the property and casualty business segment benefited from its 19th consecutive quarter of favorable loss reserve development. CNA remains confident in the overall adequacy of its reserve and will continue to maintain its disciplined reserving practices.

Despite the good operating performance in its property and casualty operation, CNA's results were negatively impacted by the performance of its limited partnership investment. LP losses were driven by negative equity market return during the quarter, combined with widening credit spreads and overall capital market volatility. Although CNA's portfolio of limited partnership investment can create earnings volatility, it continues to be an attractive investment strategy for CNA. These holdings have noted equity like returns over the years with less volatility and higher absolute returns than in equity portfolio.

Given the LP results for the quarter, it might be helpful to review how these LP investments have performed over a longer timeframe by repeating some performance figures that CNA disclosed on its call earlier today. CNA's LP portfolio produced a third quarter return of negative 3.7%, while the S&P 500 total return was negative 13.9%. Over the last 10 years, CNA's LP investments produced an annualized return of approximately 8% compared to a 3% total return for the S&P 500. So as you can see, over the longer term, the hedge fund portfolio has provided good return especially in light of the prevailing low yield in other asset classes.

Turning now to Boardwalk. With Stan Horton on board as CEO for about 2 quarters now, Boardwalk is in full growth mode. Last quarter, Boardwalk enumerated a growth strategy that included expanding its existing pipeline assets to connect to new supplies and markets. Two weeks ago, Boardwalk announced that it has won a joint venture with an affiliate of its general partner, which is owned by Loews. The new JV has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Petal Gas Storage and Hattiesburg Gas Storage from Enterprise Products Partners for $550 million. Petal and Hattiesburg operate 7 high deliverability salt dome natural gas storage caverns located in Mississippi. These assets are a great addition to Boardwalk's pipeline footprint. The facilities are anchored by the long-term fund agreement with approximately 80% of the existing customer base being either electric or natural gas utilities. The location and types of the storage assets are very desirable, and when combined with existing assets, Boardwalk expects numerous opportunities for synergy and growth.

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