Loews' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Loews (L)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 30, 2012 11:00 am ET

Executives

Mary Skafidas -

James S. Tisch - Chief Executive Officer, President, Member of Office of the President, Director, Member of Executive Committee, Member of Finance Committee, Chairman of Diamond Offshore and Director of CNA

Peter W. Keegan - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Analysts

Robert Glasspiegel - Langen McAlenney

David J. Adelman - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Andrew Baker

Sam Yake - BGB Securities, Inc., Research Division

Michael Millman - Millman Research Associates

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Loews First Quarter 2012 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to Mary Skafidas, Vice President of Investor Relations. You may begin your conference.

Mary Skafidas

Thank you, Paula, and good morning, everyone. I'd like to welcome you to Loews Corporation's First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. A copy of our earnings release may be found on our website, loews.com. In the call this morning, we have our Chief Executive Officer, Jim Tisch; and our Chief Financial Officer, Peter Keegan. Following prepared remarks this morning, we will have a question-and-answer session.

Before we begin, however, I will remind you that this conference call might include statements that are forward-looking in nature. Actual results received by the company may differ materially from those projections made in any forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements reflect circumstances at the time they were made, and the company expressly disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. This disclaimer is only a brief summary of the corporation's statutory forward-looking statements disclaimers, which is included in the company's filings with the SEC.

During the call today, we might also discuss non-GAAP financial measures. Please refer to our security filings for reconciliation to the most comparable GAAP measures.

Now I will turn the call over to Loews' Chief Executive Officer, Jim Tisch.

James S. Tisch

Thank you, Mary. Good morning, and thank you all for joining us today to discuss Loews' first quarter results. Overall, our first quarter financial results were solid. As you know by now, we reported earnings per share of $0.92 for the quarter, which matched the $0.92 per share that Loews earned in the first quarter of 2011. Our book value per share at quarter end was $48.96 a share, a 3.4% increase over our book value per share at year end. Underlying these financial results are the actions being taken by each of our subsidiaries to set value-creating strategies and to achieve operational excellence. Let's take a closer look at each of our subsidiaries beginning with CNA.

Under Tom Motamed, CNA continues to improve its core P&C operations, which included specialty insurance and commercial insurance businesses. The CNA team is executing strategies to achieve the dual goals of growth and underwriting profitability. Adjusting for the sale of its 50% stake in First Insurance Company of Hawaii during the fourth quarter of 2011, CNA achieved growth in net premiums written in its P&C operations of 5%. This strong growth came from 3 main factors: strong retention of existing business; healthy rate increases on retained business; and attractive new business in targeted areas.

By way of example, during the first quarter, CNA specialty and CNA commercial increased rates by 3% and 5%, respectively, with certain sub-lines of business showing much stronger rate achievement. Additionally, the ratio of new to lost business is 1.4:1. What this means is that CNA's underwriting and marketing efforts are gaining traction.

CNA's 68.8% first quarter loss ratio before the impact of catastrophes in prior year development was essentially in line with the prior-year quarter. The company's objective is to reduce its loss ratio materially from here. Rate increases, combined with improved underwriting discipline, are the keys to achieving this objective.

Finally, CNA took a major step in March when it reached agreement to acquire Hardy Underwriting for $227 million. Hardy is a specialized Lloyd underwriter with a respected market reputation and a long history of disciplined underwriting. The proposed acquisition will provide CNA with a key platform for international growth. Hardy shareholders approved this transaction last Thursday, and it's expected to close by the end of the second quarter.

Turning to Diamond Offshore in the offshore drilling market. Diamond had a good first quarter, despite net income being down 26% year-over-year. Diamond's quarterly earnings can vary meaningfully, as a result of such factors as survey downtime, rigs coming off contract and the cost associated with moving rigs from one locale to another.

As we've discussed previously, Diamond continues its program of fleet renewal and has 3 ultra-deepwater drillships and one moored semisubmersible rig under construction. Two of the drillships are already contracted to begin working for Anadarko Petroleum at attractive day rates. The other 2 units are currently being marketed and should be able to benefit from the prevailing robust day rate environment. These 4 units are in addition to the 2 ultra-deepwater semis that Diamond purchased out of bankruptcy in early '09 and the 4 semis that were upgraded to ultra-deepwater status since '02. We're encouraged about Diamond's market position and the future of the offshore drilling business.

Turning to Boardwalk Pipeline. During this past quarter, Boardwalk purchased from Loews for $285 million the 80% equity interest in Boardwalk HP Storage that Loews had acquired to support Boardwalk's purchase of those storage assets in December. As we previously said, our intention was always to drop down our 80% stake when it made financial sense for Boardwalk to purchase it. This transaction worked just as planned and ultimately benefited both Boardwalk and Loews shareholders. Boardwalk continues to pursue projects like Boardwalk HP Storage that leverage Boardwalk's core assets, diversify its services and geographic footprint and generate growth. HP Storage is a great example of that strategy in action.

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