Erie Indemnity's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Erie Indemnity Company ( ERIE)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 28, 2012 10:00 a.m. ET

Executives

Karen Kraus Phillips – VP and Director, IR

Terrence W. Cavanaugh – President and CEO

Marcia A. Dall – EVP and CFO

George Chip Dufala – EVP, Services

John F. Kearns – EVP, Sales and Marketing

James J. Tanous – EVP, Secretary and General Counsel

Michael S. Zavasky – EVP, Insurance Operations

Analyst

Adam Klauber – William Blair & Company, L.L.C.

Presentation

Operator

Hello and welcome to the Erie Indemnity Company Fourth Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference. I’d like to introduce your host for today’s conference call, Karen Kraus Phillips, Vice President of Investor Relations.

Karen Kraus Phillips

Thank you, Duane and good morning, we appreciate all of you joining us. On today’s call management will discuss our fourth quarter 2011 results and other matters. Joining me are Terry Cavanaugh, President and CEO; Marcia Dall, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Chip Dufala, Executive Vice President, Services; John Kearns, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing; Jim Tanous, Executive Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel; and Mike Zavasky, Executive Vice President, Insurance Operations.

Our earnings release and financial supplements were issued yesterday afternoon and these have been posted on our website erieinsurance.com. As a reminder, Indemnity’s fourth quarter 2011 results do not include the results of the property and casualty insurance operations or life operations that were sold to the Exchange.

On today’s call, management will share important information about current and future company initiatives, as a result forward-looking statements may be incorporated into their comments. These forward-looking statements reflect the company’s current views about future events and are based on assumptions subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties. These risks and uncertainties may cause results to differ materially from those anticipated as described in those statements.

For information on important factors that may cause such differences, please see the Safe Harbor statements in our latest 10-K filing with the SEC dated February 27, 2012 and in the related press release. In this call we will discuss non-GAAP measures you can find the reconciliation to the GAAP based results in the 10-K. This call is being recorded and the recording is the property of Erie Indemnity Company. It is not intended for reproduction or rebroadcast by any other party without the prior written consent of Erie Indemnity Company.

A replay will be available on our website today at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Your participation on this call will constitute consents to the recording, publication, webcast, broadcast and use of your name, voice and comments by Erie Indemnity, if you do not agree with these terms, please disconnect at this time.

I'll now turn the call over to Erie’s President and CEO, Terry Cavanaugh. Terry?

Terrence Cavanaugh

Thank you Karen and good morning everyone. Our 2011 results reflect the benefit of consistent growth in fee revenue, solid investment performance, continued support of our agents and employees and execution of robust dividend and share repurchase plans.

We finished 2011 with $0.49 of net income per share in the fourth quarter which gave us $3.08 of net income per share for the year. Direct written premium of the property casualty group which drives Indemnity’s management fee revenue remained strong, up nearly 7% in the fourth quarter and up 5.9% for the year. This strong growth in direct written premium reflects growth in policies enforced and higher average premium per policy.

Our continued strong retention rate of 90.7% was the primary driver of our increase in policies enforced. We added more than a half a million new policies in 2011, new policies were down compared to the strong growth we experienced in 2010. In the fourth quarter 2011, we began to see this trend reverse given its new policy year-over-year growth momentum going into 2012.

Our average premium per policy continues to grow as we work toward achieving the appropriate premium for the risk we ensure. In 2011 this is reflected primarily in our property lines of business such as homeowners and commercial multi-peril. As a result of strong premium growth and a continued focus on expense management, Indemnity’s management operations income grew to $208 million at year end 2011 compared to $202 million the prior year. Our management fee rate for both years was 25%, and in December meeting our Board of Directors voted to maintain a 25% fee rate going forward in 2012.

Now, Marcia will review the financial results from the fourth quarter and full year. Marcia?

Marcia Dall

Thank you, Terry and good morning. Today I’ll share results for the fourth quarter and full year 2011. First, let’s look at our fourth quarter results. After tax net income for the fourth quarter 2011 was $26 million compared to $12 million for the same period a year ago. On a per diluted share basis, net income was $0.49 per share in the current quarter compared to $0.22 per share in the prior year quarter.

Fourth quarter net operating income was $25 million and $0.47 per share compared to $17 million and $0.32 per share in the prior year quarter. Both net income and operating income results in the fourth quarter 2010 include $0.13 per share of income related to the operation sold to the Exchange and a $0.31 per share charge for deferred tax expense related to the sale of Indemnity’s ownership interest in Erie Family Life.

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