W.R. Berkley Beats Estimates

The insurer posts a profit gain.
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W.R. Berkley's

(BER)

first-quarter earnings rose 33.8% from a year ago.

The Greenwich, Conn.-based property casualty insurance provider earned $161.7 million, or 80 cents a share, compared with $120.9 million, or 61 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 76 cents a share for the period.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 12.8% to $1.31 billion, surpassing analysts' estimates of $1.27 billion.

Net operating income for the fourth quarter, excluding investment gains and effect of change in accounting policy, rose 32.2% to $159.95 million, or 79 cents a share. Revenue collected from premiums earned climbed 7.7% to $1.28 billion while net investment income rose 46.8% to $131.5 million.

The company expects to exceed a 20% return this year.

"We are pleased that we achieved a 25% annualized after-tax return for our shareholders this quarter," the company said. "The first quarter of 2006 represents our 21st consecutive quarter with a year-over-year increase in net premiums written, demonstrating our focus on improving revenue when adequate insurance pricing is available. Selective growth, both internally and through new strategic directions, continues to be a cornerstone of our competitive strategy."

Loss ratio, losses and loss expenses incurred as a percentage of premiums earned decreased 50 basis points to 61.2% and expense ratio also decreased 50 basis points to 27%.

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