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Excluding FAS 115, our return on equity was 15.8% for the quarter and our book value per share was $32.70, a 9% increase from a year ago. On a GAAP reported basis with fixed maturity carried at market value, book value per share grew 24% to $38.19. In our life insurance operations, premium revenue grew 5% to $452 million, and life underwriting margins increased 13% to $126 million. Net life sales increased 9% to $88 million.At American Income, life premiums were up 10% to $161 million and life underwriting margin was up 16% to $52 million. Net life sales increased 17% for the quarter to $39 million. The producing agent count at the end of the first quarter was 5,104, up 26% from a year ago and up 17% during the quarter. The first quarter results at American Income far exceeded our expectations. The number of newly hired agents that produced business in the first quarter was up 52% from a year ago. The number of newly hired agents who achieved our top bonus level, which is our best indicator of agent retention, was up 76% in the quarter. Our middle management ranks grew by 12% in the quarter and are up 29% from a year ago. Every key factor indicates that 2012 is a stellar year for American Income. In our direct response operation at Globe Life, life premiums were up 6% to $161 million and life underwriting margin grew 10% to $38 million. Net life sales were up 9% to $39 million. I am pleased with the results in direct response. While high gas prices and difficult economy continued to impact our response rates, through continuing innovation we've been able to grow our sales and maintain our margins. I would also remind everyone of the change we made in our direct response underwriting in mid-2011. While improving our margins, it resulted in a 6% reduction in our net sales due to more applications being rejected for health reasons. Life premium at Liberty National declined 2% to $72 million, while life underwriting margin was up 21% to $18 million.
Net life sales declined 22% to $7 million, while net health sales grew 16% to $3 million. The producing agent count at Liberty National ended the quarter at 1,276, down 31% from a year ago and down 5% for the quarter. The underwriting margins at Liberty National had benefitted from the change in DAC accounting due to the significant reductions we have implemented in our non-deferrable acquisition cost over the last couple of years.I'm also very pleased with the progress being made in turning around our declines in producing agents and sales. In mid-February, the agent count at Liberty National hit its low point of 1,228. Since that time, we have seen consistent growth, and as of Monday, the producing agent count has grown to 1,321, which is up 7.5% in the past two months. I'm very optimistic that this agent growth will continue going forward, which will result in improved sales at Liberty National for the balance of this year. On the health side, premium revenue excluding Part D declined 6% to $181 million, and health underwriting margin declined 10% to $40 million. Health net sales grew 5% to $15 million. Premium revenue from Medicare Part D grew 50% to $74 million while the underwriting margin increased 54% to $8 million. Part D sales for the quarter jumped 235% to $25 million. The new low income subsidized enroll leads continue to exceed our prior estimates and we have raised our Part D revenue estimates for 2012 to $319 million versus $197 million for 2011. Administrative expenses were $41 million for the quarter, which were up 8% from a year ago, but in line with our expectations. Roughly half of this increase was caused by the elimination of the administrative fee which we were receiving on the United Investors business. The balance of the increase was due to increased cost in our Part D administration and conservation program. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com