Bermuda-based ACE Limited (NYSE:ACE) reported net income for the first quarter ended March 31, 2004 of $447 million or $1.53 per share, compared with net income of $247 million or $0.90 per share for the prior year. Income excluding net realized gains (losses) for the first quarter increased 47% to $411 million, or $1.40 per share, compared with $279 million or $1.02 per share for the same period a year ago. (1)
Brian Duperreault, chairman and CEO of ACE Limited, commented, “ACE continues to make progress on every front. We grew rapidly in our key businesses, improved our margins and strengthened our balance sheet. Tomorrow the successful initial public offering of our Financial Guaranty business will be closed, putting ACE in the strongest position it has ever been in to face the new business opportunities that lie ahead.”
Other first quarter operating highlights were as follows:
* Net premiums written increased 11% to $3.2 billion, reflecting P/C net premium growth of 26%;
* The P/C combined ratio improved to 88.4% for the quarter compared with 90.6% a year ago;
* Operating cash flow amounted to $1.2 billion for the quarter;
* Cash and invested assets increased by $2.2 billion;
* Net investment income increased 16% to $238 million, reflecting P&C net investment income growth of 19%;
* Shareholders’ equity increased 6% from year-end to $9.4 billion and 40% over the prior year;
* Tangible equity rose to $6.7 billion, a gain of 9% from year-end and 68% over the prior year;
* Debt to total capital ratio fell to 16.1% from 16.9% at year-end 2003;
* Annualized return on equity for the quarter ended March 31, 2004 was 18.7%; excluding FAS 115, it was 20.4%;
* Diluted book value per share as of March 31, 2004 increased 6% to $31.36(2)
Financial results improved over the prior year’s results for virtually every business segment. Key items include:
* Insurance-North American: Net premiums written increased 30% and the combined ratio improved to 89.4%.
* Insurance-Overseas General: Net premiums written increased 22%. The segment’s combined ratio improved to 89.3%.
* Global Reinsurance: Net premiums written were up 28%. This segment had a combined ratio of 73.5%.
* Financial Services: Net income increased 48% for the quarter reflecting a combined ratio of 67.6%.
On April 23, 2004, ACE offered approximately 65% of Assured Guaranty Ltd. to the public. The transaction will net approximately $1 billion to ACE in cash.
ACE expects to use the net proceeds to support its property and casualty operations and for general corporate purposes.
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