First American Financial Corporation ( FAF)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 27, 2011 11:00 am ET

Executives

Craig Barberio – Director, Investor Relations

Dennis J. Gilmore – Chief Executive Officer

Max O. Valdes – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Mark E. Seaton – Senior Vice President, Finance

Analysts

Mark DeVries – Barclays Capital

John Campbell – Stephens Inc.

Presentation

Operator

Welcome to the First American Third Quarter 2011 Earnings Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. (Operator Instructions) A copy of today's press release is available on First American's website at www.firstam.com/investor. Please note that the call is being recorded and will be available for replay from the company's investor website and for a short time by dialing 203-369-1399.

We will now turn the call over to Craig Barberio, Director of Investor Relations to make an introductory statement.

Craig Barberio

Good morning, everyone. And thank you for joining us for our third quarter 2011 earnings conference call. Joining us on today's call will be our Chief Executive Officer, Dennis Gilmore; Max Valdes, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Mark Seaton, Senior Vice President of Finance. At this time, we would like to remind listeners that management's commentary and responses to your questions today may contain forward-looking statements, such as those described on page four of today's news release. And other statements that do not relate strictly to historical or current fact.

The forward-looking statements speak only as of the date, they are made and the company does not undertake to update forward-looking statements to reflect circumstances or events that occur after the date the forward-looking statements are made. Risks and uncertainties exist that may cause results to differ materially from those set forth in these forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause the anticipated results to differ from those described in the forward-looking statements are also described on page four of the news release.

With that, I will now turn the call over to Dennis Gilmore.

Dennis J. Gilmore

Thanks, Craig. Good morning and thank you for joining the call. I'll begin by going over our third quarter operational highlights of the company. Total revenue in the third quarter was $965 million, down 4% from the third quarter of 2010, with net income of $21 million, or $0.20 per share. The results of the quarter include a reserve charge of $27.7 million and net realized investment losses of $3.3 million, which, combined, reduced our earnings per share by $0.17.

The Title segment generated a pretax margin of 5.4% on revenues of $898 million. Our Commercial division continued its strong performance, with revenues up 22% compared to last year. And our International division had a strong rebound, with revenues up 24%, driven by the strength of our Canadian operations. The quarter also benefited from lower costs, as we hit our target for the $40 million annualized expense reduction program that we implemented last quarter.

In August, as mortgage interest rates dropped, we saw an increase in open orders. For the quarter, orders were up 14% sequentially, with refinance transactions accounting for 62% of all residential orders. Open title orders held steady in September, and we're seeing a slight downward trend in October, given this trend and our expectation for continued strong commercial activity. The fourth quarter pipeline looks favorable.

Turning to our Specialty Insurance segment, we achieved pretax earnings of $7 million, for a 9% margin. The overall loss ratio was 60%, compared to 53% in the third quarter of last year. During the quarter, we experienced adverse development for title claim losses, primarily related to policy year 2007, resulting in a $14.7 million reserve charge.

In addition, as mentioned on last quarter's call, we've been engaged in a multi-stage mediation process with Bank of America and FiServ that was scheduled to conclude at the end of August. The parties agreed to delay the final stage until the fourth quarter. As part of that process, we’ve engaged the services of statisticians and other experts to help us analyze the claims involved in the lawsuit. As a result of that analysis, we’ve estimated our financial exposure to be between $13 million and $42 million, with $13 million being our best estimate of the Company's financial exposure. We've booked a reserve and offered to settle the case for that amount.

Let me briefly comment on recent developments concerning CoreLogic. On August 29, CoreLogic announced that its Board was exploring options aimed at enhancing shareholder value, including a potential sale of the entire Company. We own over 8% of CoreLogic and are the Company's largest shareholder. Therefore we have a strong interest in the outcome of that process.

Since their announcement and in a series of SEC filings and communication with CoreLogic, we’ve made our interest known. Last week, we delivered a letter to their Board indicating that in the current environment, we do not believe the Company could be sold at a price that is in the best interest of long-term shareholders. We also advised their Board that a better solution is for CoreLogic to focus on its core business.

In the event, they decide to pursue a sale anyway. We submitted a non-binding offer for the Company. We've also made a non-binding offer to purchase certain of their assets that we believe to be non-core to them. While we are not certain as to the timing or ultimate outcome of the CoreLogic process, we are monitoring the situation closely.

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