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Argo's Profits Slip for 3Q Due to Cat Losses, Tough Economy

Posted on 04 Nov 2010

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Bermuda-based Argo Group International Holdings Ltd.'s profits dipped slightly during the third quarter of 2010 in the face of losses from the New Zealand earthquake and a tough economic environment.

The reinsurer posted net income of $23 million or 77 cents per share for the quarter versus $27.6 million or 89 cents in 2009, while net income was $69.8 million or $2.31 per share for the nine months ended September 30, 2010 compared to $76.5 million or $2.48 per share for the same period last year.

Total revenue was also down at $333.3 million from $380.5 million over the corresponding period and net pre-tax operating income, or pre-tax income before net realised investment gains and losses and foreign currency exchange gains and losses, was $25.7 million versus $31.7 million in the third quarter of 2009.

Book value per share hit an all-time high of $58.30 at September 30, 2010, up 6.5 percent from June 30, 2010, and 14.2 percent from September 30, 2009.

Argo Group CEO Mark Watson said: "We produced positive financial results in the third quarter despite the competitive underwriting environment, a major cat event in New Zealand and a sluggish global economy that affects the market niches we serve.

"Given these challenges, I'm pleased we have continued to increase book value per share sequentially while at the same time being in a position to return capital to shareholders through share repurchases and cash dividend payments. Our focus continues to be on effectively managing our capital base and pursuing opportunities that will expand our enterprise through product innovation and geographic diversification."

The third quarter 2010 results were impacted by the New Zealand earthquake in September compared to no material catastrophic losses in the third quarter of 2009.

Net investment income for the three months ended September 30, 2010 and 2009, was $33.6 million and $31.9 million, respectively, while net realised gains on investments were $9.1 million for the three months ended September 30, 2010, compared to net gains on realised investments of $700,000 for the three months ended September 30, 2009.

The group combined ratio for the third quarter of 2010 was 101.3 percent versus 98.6 percent for the same period in 2009.

Since June 30, 2010, Argo Group has repurchased $44.8 million or 1.4 million shares of its common stock, including $11.5 million or 330,000 shares, since September 30, 2010. Year-to-date, the company has repurchased $81.5 million, or 2.6 million shares of its outstanding common stock, representing 8.3 percent of its shares outstanding at December 31, 2009