Markel Swings to Fourth-Quarter Profits

Virginia-based specialty insurer Markel Corp. posted profits of $93.7 million in the fourth quarter, a positive swing from the $32.6 million loss the company saw in the same period last year.

For the full year, Markel posted net income of $202.4 million, compared to a $58.4 million loss last year.

Chairman and Chief Executive Alan Kirshner credit underwriting profits and investment gains for the company’s allowed the company to grow book value per share to an all-time high. However, he added, the company does “not expect significant improvement in the insurance market in 2010.”

Markel’s E&S unit saw new written premiums for the quarter fall to $203.5 million, down from $228.9 million in the previous quarter. For the year, E&S lines saw net written premiums fall to $869.7 million, down from $1 billion in 2008.

Across all lines, Markel saw net written premiums fall to $389 million for the quarter, down from $426 million in the prior-year period. For 2009, net written premiums were $1.7 billion, down from just under $2 billion last year.

In 2009, Markel’s combined ratio fell to 95 from 99.