AXIS Capital Holdings' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

AXIS Capital Holdings Limited (AXS)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 27, 2012 8:00 am ET

Executives

Linda Ventresca – Investor Relations

John R. Charman – President and Chief Executive Officer

Albert A. Benchimol – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Vinay Misquith – Evercore Partners

Joshua Shanker – Deutsche Bank Securities

Brian Meredith – UBS

Jay Cohen – Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Cliff Gallant – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

Meyer Shields – Stifel Nicolaus & Company, Inc.

Gregory Locraft – Morgan Stanley

Presentation

Operator

Good day, and welcome to the Q1 2012 AXIS Capital Earnings Conference Call and Wescast. All participants will be in listen-only mode. (Operator instructions) Please note this event is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Ms. Linda Ventresca, Investor Relations. Ms. Ventresca, the floor is yours ma’am.

Linda Ventresca

Thank you, Mike and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am happy to welcome you to our conference call to discuss the financial results for AXIS Capital for the quarter ended March 31, 2012. Our earnings press release and financial supplement were issued yesterday evening after the market closed. If you would like copies, please visit the Investor Information section of our website www.axiscapital.com.

We set aside an hour for today’s call, which is also available as an audio webcast through the Investor Information section of our website. A replay of the teleconference will be available by dialing 877-344-7529 in the U.S. The international number is 412-317-0088. The conference code for both replay dial-in numbers is 10012316.

With me on today’s call are John Charman, our CEO and President; and Albert Benchimol, our CFO. Before I turn the call over to John, I will remind everyone that statements made during this call, including the question-and-answer sessions, which are not historical facts, may be forward-looking statements within the meaning of the U.S. federal securities laws.

Forward-looking statements contained in this presentation include, but are not necessarily limited to, information regarding our estimate of losses related to catastrophes, policies and other loss events; general economic, capital and credit market conditions; future growth prospects, financial results, and capital management initiatives; the valuation of losses and loss reserves; investment strategies, investment portfolio and market performance; impact to the marketplace with respect to changes in pricing models; and our expectations regarding pricing and other market conditions.

These statements involve risks, uncertainties, and assumptions, which could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations. For a discussion of these matters, please refer to the Risk Factors section in our most recent Form 10-K on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. We undertake no obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

In addition, this presentation contains information regarding operating income, which is a non-GAAP financial measure within the meaning of the U.S. federal securities laws. For a reconciliation of this item to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure, please refer to our press release, which can be found on our website.

With that, I’d like to turn the call over to John.

John R. Charman

Thank you, Linda and a very good morning to everyone. AXIS has had a very good first quarter, particularly considering the transitional P&C market conditions that we continue to face. Operating income for the quarter was $136 million or $1.07 per diluted share, and our operating ROE for the quarter was nearly 11%. The combined ratio for the quarter was 94.8%.

This quarter was characterized by relatively benign catastrophe activity and our estimates of aggregate Cat losses from prior years remain stable. Net investment income in the quarter benefited from strong performance of the global equity markets. This improvement in equity markets coupled with tightening and credit spreads contributed significantly to book value growth in the quarter. We ended the quarter with record diluted book value per share of $39.53, an increase of 4% from year-end 2011 and 11% over the last 12 months.

Gross premiums written in the quarter declined by 2%. Growth in our Insurance segment from accident and health, marine and property related lines was offset by continued prudent reductions, (inaudible) line where we remain judicious in our utilization available capacity. We are however, encouraged as pricing continue to firm through the quarter and into the April 1 renewals, particularly in catastrophe exposed classes.

The product lines where we maintain a meaningful participation, this trend is visible now and almost in every geography and every line. However, the rate changes we are observing are not yet enough to warn any dramatic increase in underwriting activity.

I will discuss market conditions in more detail following Albert’s remarks. And with that, I’d like to turn the call over to Albert.

Albert A. Benchimol

Thank you, John and good morning everyone. This was a good quarter for the industry and for AXIS. Capital rise by improving pricing trends across substantially all lines in market and absence of large catastrophes and a significant turnaround in results from the Cat plagued first quarter of 2011. This quarter also marked a full recovery in our diluted book value following the significant Cat losses incurred in the first quarter of last year. Just as we have done following significant Cat loss activity in 2005 and 2008, we’ve demonstrated the resilience of our franchise and in all cases book value reached a new high within 12 months.

We had offsetting trends in our insurance and reinsurance business, so I believe in best of this quarter to start with a discussion of each segment and then conclude with the consolidated underwriting results. Our Insurance segment exhibited strong growth with gross premiums written of 23% to $525 million. Approximately half of that growth came from the accident and health initiative, which grew by over 120% this quarter, driven by timing issues and the renewal of a large reinsurance treaty as well as new business.

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