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US Prices Firming Through January, Says Ace Chairman/CEO

Posted on 02 Feb 2012

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Ace Group reported a 25% drop in fourth-quarter net income, as it looks back on a record global catastrophe year and toward a general firming of property/casualty business, company leaders said.

The earnings fell to $750 million from $1 billion in the 2010 fourth quarter, the company said.

In an earnings conference call, Ace Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Evan Greenberg referenced the 2011 catastrophes several times, specifically citing losses from the Thailand floods, which totaled about $106 million alone.

Greenberg said the company saw growth through the quarter across personal lines, crop, accident and health, and property/casualty commercial lines in Asia and Latin America. Prices in the United States continued to firm into January, which is a trend "across most classes of property and casualty," Greenberg said.

"Ace had a very good fourth-quarter and full-year results, particularly considering the environment, Euro crisis, slow economic growth in developed markets, challenging insurance market conditions, and of course the costliest catastrophe year on record for the industry," Greenberg said.

Greenberg also noted $1.4 billion in premium revenue growth in agriculture, including crop insurance. Ace has been expanding into the agriculture market in recent years, purchasing Penn Millers Holding Corp in September, and Rain and Hail Insurance Service Inc. in 2010.

The company's North America portfolio had its "best quarter yet" with overall rates up, Greenberg said. Rates continued to steadily firm as the quarter went along, with December being the best month.

Most Ace companies currently have a Best's Financial Strength Rating of A+ (Superior). Shares of Ace Ltd. (NYSE: ACE) in early afternoon of Feb. 1 were trading at $72.51, which is up 4.18% from the previous close.