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Travelers Misses Q1 Earnings on Cat Losses, Ups Dividend

The Travelers Companies Inc.’s TRV first-quarter 2016 operating earnings of $2.33 per share missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.57 by 9.3%. Earnings also declined 7.9% year over year.

The decline in earnings can be attributed to higher catastrophe losses mainly due to the occurrence of hail storms in Texas in late March. Catastrophe losses dragged the bottom line by 69 cents per share in the quarter.

Quarter in Detail

Net written premiums rose 4.6% year over year to $6.2 billion. The company experienced higher levels of retention, new business volumes and positive renewal premium changes in each business segment in the quarter.

Net investment income declined around 8.1% year over year to $544 million. The downside was attributable to lesser returns in fixed income portfolio owing to lower reinvestment rates. Also, lesser returns in the non-fixed income portfolio due lower hedge fund returns hurt net investment income.

Total revenue of Travelers inched up 1% from the year-ago quarter to $6.7 billion. Revenues beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $6.6 billion by 1.8%.

Travelers’ underwriting gains plunged 31% to $428 million. Combined ratio deteriorated 340 basis points (bps) year over year to 92.3% on higher catastrophe losses and lower net favorable prior year reserve development, partially offset by a lower underlying combined ratio.

At the end of the first quarter, statutory capital and surplus was $20.6 billion and the debt-to-capital ratio (excluding after-tax net unrealized investment gains) was 22.1% – comfortably within the company’s target range of 15–25%.

Adjusted book value per were $76.63 per share, increasing 7% year over year.

Segment Update
    
Travelers' Business and International Insurance unit reported net written premiums of $3.9 billion, up 3.1% year over year.

Combined ratio deteriorated 150 bps year over year to 94.8%. The deterioration was attributable to higher catastrophe losses and a higher underlying combined ratio, partially offset by higher net favorable prior-year reserve development.

Operating income of $476 million decreased 7.6% on lower investment income and higher catastrophe losses.
 
Bond & Specialty Insurance: Net written premiums increased 3% year over year to $492 million on higher volume in Surety as well as increased retention rates, positive renewal premium changes and a rise in new business volume in Management Liability.

Combined ratio improved 680 bps year over year to 69.3%.

Operating income surged 16.1% year over year to $144 million due to higher net favorable prior-year reserve development and a higher underlying underwriting gain.

Personal Insurance: Net written premiums increased 8.5% year over year to $1.7 billion.

Combined ratio deteriorated 1020 bps year over year to 93.7% due to lower net favorable prior year reserve development and higher catastrophe losses, partially offset by a lower underlying combined ratio.

Operating income of $139 million plunged 44.8% due to higher catastrophe losses and lower net favorable prior year reserve development, partially offset by a higher underlying underwriting gain.

Dividend and Share Repurchase

The property & casualty (P&C) insurer returned total capital of $790 million to its shareholders. This included the buyback of 5.6 million shares worth $609 million in the reported quarter.

The company’s board of directors also approved a dividend hike of 10%, which translates to 67 cents per share. The dividend is payable on Jun 30, to shareholders on record at the close of business on Jun 10, 2016.

Zacks Rank and Performance of Other P&C Insurers

Travelers currently holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Some other P&C insurers too recently released their first-quarter earnings results. While the bottom line at RLI Corp. RLI and First American Financial Corp. FAF beat their respective Zacks Consensus Estimates, Progressive Corp. PGR missed the same in the first quarter.

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RLI CORP (RLI): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
TRAVELERS COS (TRV): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
PROGRESSIVE COR (PGR): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
FIRST AMER FINL (FAF): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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