HCC Insurance Holdings' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc. (HCC)

Q1 2012 Earnings Conference Call

May 02, 2012, 09:00 a.m. ET


John Molbeck, Jr. - CEO

Chris Williams - President

Brad Irick - EVP and CFO

Mike Schell - EVP and Chief Property and Casualty Insurance Officer

Bill Burke, Jr. - EVP and COO


Michael Nannizzi - Goldman Sachs

Doug Mewhirter - RBC Capital Markets

Ryan Byrnes - Macquarie



Welcome to the First Quarter 2012 Earnings Release Conference Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers’ remarks there will be a question-and-answer session.

I’d now like to turn the conference over to Mr. John Molbeck, Chief Executive Officer. Sir, you may begin your conference.

John Molbeck, Jr.

Thank you, operator. And good morning everyone and welcome to HCC’s 2012 first quarter conference call. Joining me today is Chris Williams, our President; Brad Irick, our Chief Financial Officer; Mike Schell, our Chief Property and Casualty Insurance Officer; and Bill Burke, Jr., our Chief Operating Officer is joining us for the first time today.

Brad will follow my initial remarks with financial highlights and Chris will comment about the quarter. But first a few highlights, for the quarter we had annualized operating return on equity of 11.1%, an increase in gross written premium of 5% to $682.7 million.

Net earnings of $82.6 million, net earnings per diluted share of $0.79. A GAAP combined ratio of 85.2% which included 1.3 percentage points of catastrophe. During the quarter we repurchased 2.2 million shares of our common stock at an average cost of $30.64, and increased book value per share by 2.5%. Importantly, our expense ratio was 25.1% for the quarter, a measure which continues to differentiate HCC.

Brad will now review with you our financial highlights Brad?

Brad Irick

Thanks John. Net investment income was $57 million up over 10% from the prior year. We achieved a long-term tax equivalent yield of 5% and a book yield of 4.1%.

Portfolio duration remained just under 5 years and our unrealized gain position increased nearly $20 million. We are pleased with our investment performance to-date, driven by strong cash flow and consistent yields.

We review the adequacy of our reserves across all of our major business lines each quarter including a review of catastrophe reserves. We recorded net reserves of $7.6 million related to catastrophes; 4 million of which related to U.S. storms that primarily impacted the public risk line of business and our U.S. P&C segment. The balance related to other small cats that impacted our property line of business. We make no adjustments to prior year cat reserves.

At quarter end our quarter reserves exceeded the actuarial point estimate by 4.8%, an increase from 4.2 percent at year led by a better than expected actual experience and our professional liability segment. We purchased 2.2 million share of our common stock for $67 million and an additional 31 million since quarter end.

We have a 129 million remaining under our current authorization and remain opportunistic buyers of our stock. Our debt-to-total-capital ratio increased 14.6% as we continue to utilize our revolving credit facility to fund share purchases. At an average borrowing rate of about 1.6% of these funds, the facility is an effective low cost funding source allowing us to retain higher earning investments at the holding company.

Operating cash flow which excludes a major a large commutation in our Exited Lines was 103 million an increase of more than 20 million from the prior year quarter. This represents our strongest first quarter operating cash flow in several years. The commutation is part of a proactive effort to finalize our exposure to run off excess workers’ compensation business that we exited a decade ago. This has been a successful effort both commutation payments of approximately 180 million since 2007.

Finally, we retrospectively adopted new accounting guidance for capitalization of policy acquisition cost this quarter, which reduced our equity by $18 million or $0.17 per share. Adoption had no impact on earnings reported for prior periods or our earnings expectations going forward. Chris?

Chris Williams

Thanks Brad. In the following remarks that our segments premium, I’m referring to net earned premium. Overall, our net earned premium for the quarter was up 8% when compared to 2011 with most segment showing improving rate environments.

Our renewal retention ratio was 84% for the quarter. U.S. property and casualty premium was up 11% for the quarter, and this segment produced a net loss ratio of 55%. Aviation premium increased not only year-over-year, this line produced a very satisfactory net loss ratio for the quarter, the 47% versus 59% to Q1 2011 due to fewer large losses. Premium growth in our public risk line offset decline in our E&O premium. Some of the lines of business included other category of our entertainment, sports disability as well as our 2011 new launch of business.

I’ll ask Bill Burke our new Chief Operating Officer to discuss the new launch.

Bill Burke, Jr.

Thanks Chris. We started three new lines of business in 2011, technical property, primary and excess casualty. We believe there will be a strong opportunity in these lines of business in the future.

For these lines 2011 was a year to get organized. We recruited experienced teams for each line and we built systems, process and agency relationships. We have seen a good flow submissions across these lines, as an example in the first quarter in primary casualty, we received over 2500 submissions and we bound 31 accounts.

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