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The Travelers Companies (TRV)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 25, 2011 9:00 am ET


Greg Toczydlowski - President of Personal Insurance

Jay Fishman - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Executive Committee

Alan Schnitzer - Chief Legal Officer, Vice Chairman and Executive Vice President of Financial, Professional & International Insurance

Brian MacLean - President and Chief Operating Officer

Jay Benet - Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer

Gabriella Nawi - Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Member of Operating Committee

William Heyman - Vice Chairman and Chief Investment Officer


Larry Greenberg - Janney Montgomery Scott LLC

Vinay Misquith - Crédit Suisse AG

Jay Gelb - Barclays Capital

Michael Nannizzi - Oppenheimer

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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Fourth Quarter and Full Year Earnings Review For Travelers. [Operator Instructions] At this time, I would like to turn the call over to Ms. Gabriella Nawi, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations. Ms. Nawi, you may begin.

Gabriella Nawi

Thank you, Sharon. Good morning, and welcome to Travelers' discussion of our fourth quarter and full year 2010 results. Hopefully, all of you have seen our press release, financial supplement and webcast presentation released earlier this morning. All of these materials can be found on our website at under the Investor Section. Speaking today will be Jay Fishman, Chairman and CEO; Jay Benet, Chief Financial Officer; and Brian MacLean, President and Chief Operating Officer. Other members of senior management are also in the room available for the question-and-answer period. They will discuss the financial results of our business and the current market environment. They will refer to the webcast presentation as they get through prepared remarks, and then we will open it for questions.

Before I turn it over to Jay, I would like to draw your attention to the explanatory note on Page 1 of the webcast. Our presentation today includes forward-looking statements. The company cautions investors that any forward-looking statement involves risks and uncertainties and is not a guarantee of future performance. Actual results may differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements due to a variety of factor. These factors are described in our earnings press release and in our most recent 10-Q and 10-K filed with the SEC. We do not undertake any obligation to update forward-looking statements. Also in our remarks or responses to questions, we may mention some non-GAAP financial measures. Reconciliations are included in our recent earnings press release, financial supplement and other materials that are available on our website.

Thank you. And I'd like to turn it over to Jay Fishman.

Jay Fishman

Thank you, Gabby. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. We're very pleased with the results that we're reporting today, not only for what they say about 2010 but also for how they continue to demonstrate the strength of the Travelers' franchise and how well-positioned we are for the future.

Our operating return on equity for the full year was 12.5% and our growth in book value per share for the year was 11%, both including or excluding net unrealized gains on our investment portfolio. Since the beginning of 2005, our average annual operating return on equity is 14.1% and our compound annual growth in book value per share is 12.9% or 11.5%, excluding the impact of FAS 115.

Since we began our share repurchase program in the middle of 2006, we have repurchased nearly 289 million shares for $14.5 billion at an average price per share of $50.15. The shares repurchased now total approximately 42% of the shares that were outstanding at the time we began the program. We have accomplished all this notwithstanding an operating environment that over these years can only be described as complex. Positively, loss cost trends during this period have been relatively benign and have certainly contributed to the significant favorable prior year reserve development we've experienced. Negatively, the difficult economic conditions over the last three years have contributed to declining exposures, deteriorating pricing, challenging credit markets and historically low interest rates.

The industry has also faced three significant catastrophe years in the period that is 2005, 2008 and 2010. And two years, 2006 and 2007, that have low levels of cap losses. We believe that our consistent top tier performance over these six challenging years demonstrates a fundamental competitive advantage that we have in assessing risk and reward on both the liability and asset sides of the balance sheet.

Risk selection has been a key driver of our performance over this period and with our investments in talent and infrastructure, we'll continue to drive our performance in the future. In terms of the current operating environment, Brian will take you through it in more detail. Given some of the trends we saw in the fourth quarter, we are somewhat more optimistic than we were a few months ago.

In Business Insurance exposure changes, one element of demand for our product positive for the first time in nine consecutive quarters. With respect to pricing, as we've shared with you previously, renewal pricing in Business Insurance has been about flat for most of 2010, results that are obviously better than those that have been reported in the CIAB surveys. In the fourth quarter, renewal pricing in Business Insurance not only improved versus the third quarter but also within the quarter as the months progressed. While these comments are not intended to forecast future pricing, these results suggest that our pricing strategy is beginning to have some traction and we hope it continues.

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