Old Republic International Corp. (ORI)

Q2 2010 Earnings Conference Call

July 22, 2010 03:00 pm ET

Executives

Leslie Loyet - IR

Al Zucaro - Chairman & CEO

Chris Nard - President & COO

Analysts

Beth Malone - Wunderlich Securities, Inc.

Stephen Mead - Anchor Capital Advisors LLC

Bill Clark - Keefe Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Mike Randall - Northland Capital Markets

Presentation

Operator

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Old Republic International second quarter 2010 earnings conference call.

Today's conference is being recorded. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation we will conduct a question-and-answer session. Instructions will be provided at that time for you to queue up for questions. I would now like to remind everyone that this conference is being recorded.

I will now turn the conference over to Leslie Loyet of the Financial Relations Board. Please go ahead, ma'am.

Leslie Loyet

Thank you, good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us today for the Old Republic conference call to discuss second quarter 2010 results. This morning we distributed a copy of the press release and hopefully you've all had a chance to review the results. If there is anyone on line who did not receive a copy, you may access it at Old Republic's website at www.oldrepublic.com or you can call Liz Dolezal, 312-640-6771, and she will send you a copy immediately.

Please be advised that this call may involve forward-looking statements as discussed in the press release dated July 22, 2010. Risk associated with these statements can be found in the company's latest SEC filings. Joining us today from management are, Al Zucaro, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; and Chris Nard, President.

At this time, I would like to turn the call over to Al Zucaro for his opening remarks. Please go ahead.

Al Zucaro

Good afternoon to everybody. As always, we appreciate very much your interest in following the trends in our business on a quarter-to-quarter basis. Also as always, we assume that you've seen or have access to this morning's press release so we will not slavishly repeat what is in there instead we'll just add some color to what you have already seen and read.

At the halfway mark this year, so far. The overall results we are posting are reasonably close to where we expected them to be, at budget time, late last year. However, while they are on target, the make up of them vary somewhat from the expectations we've had at the time.

In General Insurance we thought some of you may remember, our saying, we thought that we would be posting a composite ratio for that business of about 98% or so, 96% to 98%, as I recall we said. But here we are staying at the same level, at the same time last year i.e. at about 102% and we are therefore clearly in the underwriting loss territory still with respect to that major part of our business.

In Mortgage Guaranty, even if we exclude the beneficial effects of the several transactions that we disclosed in this morning's release, the underwriting losses we are reporting are currently running at about half the rate we reported in last year's first half. So, this business, even after taking these other factors that I'm sure Chris will speak to in a few minutes, this business is beginning to feel like it is on a rebound and that it should gradually turn to a stable level of profitability in the next 24 months or so.

To a large degree, we have the same feel for a rebound and in the title side of our operations. At half time this year, we thought we'll be posting a little better underwriting ratio than the 103 or so percent that we've booked so far, and that you see in one of the tables in the press release. But as you can see, this ratio is nearly identical to last year's performance.

The story here continues to be the same as we have reported for several quarters now, and that is that we're having to invest a lot more than we first imagined, mostly in people resources that are needed to sustain the much greater market share that we are garnering. To the best of our knowledge, we are currently running at a little more than 10% market share in the title insurance, and that's just about double where we were just a year or so ago. So we're really making hay in terms of getting more business in the front door. So now, we think that it will take a while longer for operating expenses in title insurance to strike a better balance with the top line.

Looking at our general insurance business in a more granular fashion, the lack of progress in the underwriting front in our view rests primarily on the operating difficulties that we're still encountering in our consumer credit or CCI coverage. As we noted in this morning's release, the delinquency rates on that business, oddly enough, have been dropping fairly steadily since mid-year last year or thereabouts. But even in the face of strong loss mitigation efforts, the line obviously keeps delivering unabated loss frequency.

As we noted in the release, several insured institutions are currently responding, have been for several months now, with more timely claim verification of the delinquencies that they have been reporting to us, and this is having the effect of turning a higher number of delinquencies into actual indemnifiable claims sooner than might otherwise been the case. And also we are still in our reserving process for those claims. We are still, or continue to take into account what we consider to be historically low levels of mitigation opportunities, so that the loss reserves are tending to stay at a much higher level than would have been the case when we were a number of years ago, in fact, experiencing and reflecting in the reserves a much higher level of mitigation opportunities and benefits.

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