Assurant's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Assurant, Inc. (AIZ)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 26, 2012, 8:00 a.m. ET

Executives

Melissa Kivett – Senior Vice President, IR

Rob Pollock – President and CEO

Mike Peninger – CFO

Chris Pagano – CIO and Treasurer

Analysts

Edward Spehar – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Jimmy Bhullar – JP Morgan

Mark Finkelstein – Evercore Partners

Chris Giovanni – Goldman Sachs

Steven Schwartz - Raymond James and Associates

Jeffrey Schuman – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

Mark Hughes – Suntrust

John Nadel – Sterne Agee

Presentation

Operator

Welcome to the Assurant First Quarter 2012 Financial Results conference call. All participants will be in a listen-only mode throughout today’s call, until after our prepared remarks and then we will conduct a question-and-answer session.

I would now like to turn the call over to Ms. Melissa Kivett, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations. Please go ahead, Ms. Kivett.

Melissa Kivett

Thanks, Lauren, and good morning, everyone. We look forward to discussing our first quarter 2012 results review. Joining me for Assurant’s conference call are Rob Pollock, our President and Chief Executive Officer, Mike Peninger, our Chief Financial Officer and Chris Pagano, our Chief Investment Officer and Treasurer.

Yesterday afternoon, we issued a news release announcing our first quarter results. Both the release and corresponding supplemental financial information are available at Assurant.com.

Please not that all prior period financial information presented in the release supplement and on this call reflects the new accounting guidance for deferred acquisition costs, which the company adopted at January 1, 2012.

We’ll start today’s call with brief remarks from Rob and Mike, and Chris participating in the Q&A. Some of the statements we make on today’s call may be forward looking and actual results may differ materially from those projected in these statements. Additional information on the factor that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected can be found in yesterday’s news release as well as our SEC reports, including our 2011 Form 10-K, available at Assurant.com.

Today’s call will also contain non-GAAP financial measures, which we believe are meaningful in evaluating the company’s performance. For more details of these measures, the most comparable GAAP measures and reconciliation of the two, please refer to the news release and the financial supplement posted on our website at Assurant.com.

Now, I’ll turn the call over to Rob.

Rob Pollock

Thanks, Melissa, and good morning everyone. We are pleased with our results in the first quarter with each business increasing earnings compared to the first quarter of 2011. We also continued to return capital to shareholders while maintaining a strong capital position.

We measure our performance against three important financial metrics. First, we reported an annualized operating return on equity, excluding AOCI of 14.6% during the first quarter.

Second, growth in book value per diluted share, excluding AOCI, was 3.5% during the quarter.

Third, revenue, defined by net earned premiums and fee income, grew by over 1.5% year over year to 1.9 billion. Despite economic challenges, we are producing profitable growth.

In Solutions, the areas identified for growth are service contracts, pre-need, international and mobile, which we previously described as wireless. The term mobile recognizes the proliferation of smartphones and tablets in the lives of consumers. Pre-need and our domestic mobile and service contract businesses are delivering returns above our ROE targets. In international operations, profitability improved and we continue to see revenue grow in Latin America.

In China, we were pleased to add a prominent client, Jang Su Five Star Limited, a wholly-owned affiliate of Best Buy. We expect this partnership to generate more than 100,000 million in annual revenue in three to four years.

Moving to Europe, the continuing financial crisis has triggered greater levels of austerity and a recession. Although our results there have improved, we are taking a hard look at our performance versus expectations to ensure we can achieve our return targets in what we believe will continue to be a difficult environment.

In Specialty Property, we maintain the number of loans tracked, despite the overall shrinking market. We were able to do so by winning new loan portfolios for tracking and by our clients acquiring additional loans. We continue to expect placement rates to return to more normal levels as seriously delinquent loans start to resolve.

Assurant Health continues to make great progress in implementing it’s strategy. We’ve been successful in expanding our distribution this year, and are pleased to announce a partnership with American Family Insurance Company.

American Family’s broad network of agents will now exclusively sell our individual health policies to their customers. We have a specialty strategy that can be successful no matter now the Supreme Court rules on the Healthcare Reform case. We are focused on meeting the needs of individuals with a range of affordable product offerings. At the same time, we are finding ways to operate more efficiently. Small employers, the primary customers of Assurant Employee Benefits, continue to face challenging economic times. We are further tailoring our business model to focus more sharply on voluntary products, which are increasingly important to our customers and their employees.

We believe our specialized voluntary enrollment and customer service capabilities already give us a competitive advantage in the small employer market. We are investing in tools and technology to expand this advantage.

With that, I’ll turn to Mike for more comments on the quarter.

Mike Peninger

Thanks Rob. I’ll discuss a few quarter highlights and priorities for each of our business segments starting with Assurant Solutions.

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