W.R. Berkley Beats Estimates

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W.R. Berkley

(BER)

jumped 6% after saying fourth-quarter earnings rose 44% from a year ago.

The Greenwhich, Conn.-based property casualty insurance provider earned $167 million, or $1.25 a share, compared with $116 million, or 88 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of $1.04 a share for the period.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 14% to $1.34 billion, beating analysts' estimates of $1.28 billion.

Net operating income for the fourth quarter, excluding investment gains and effect of change in accounting policy, rose 45% to $165 million, or $1.23 a share. Revenue collected from premiums earned climbed 12% to $1.2 billion, while net investment income rose 38% to $113.3 million.

The company expects an overall growth of 6% to 12% for the year 2006, with new units gaining further traction in 2007.

"The company had another outstanding year," said CEO William R. Berkley. "Our return on equity was 25.8%, while cash flow, underwriting profits and premium volume all reached record levels. The strength of our balance sheet positions us to take advantage of opportunities and to deal with any uncertainties."

Berkley rose $3.10 to $51.89.

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