CINCINNATI (BUSINESS WIRE) — American Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: AFG) (NASDAQ: AFG) today reported net earnings attributable to shareholders of $96 million ($0.94 per share) for the 2011 third quarter, compared to $132 million ($1.21 per share) for the 2010 third quarter. Per share results reflect the impact of share repurchases in 2011 and 2010. The 2011 results include realized gains of $5 million compared to realized gains of $15 million in the 2010 period. Book value per share, excluding appropriated retained earnings and unrealized gains (losses) on fixed maturities, increased by $0.40 to $39.09 per share during the quarter. Net earnings attributable to shareholders for the nine month period were $234 million ($2.24 per share), compared with $346 million ($3.11 per share) in the comparable 2010 period. Nine month results in 2011 include realized gains of $14 million and a special charge of $38 million resulting from a second quarter reserve strengthening related to the Company’s asbestos and other environmental exposures. The comparable period in 2010 includes $24 million in realized gains.
Core net operating earnings were $91 million ($0.90 per share) for the 2011 third quarter, compared to $117 million ($1.07 per share) reported in the 2010 third quarter. Core net operating earnings for the first nine months of 2011 were $258 million ($2.48 per share) compared to $322 million ($2.89 per share) for the same period a year ago. Lower underwriting profit and lower investment income in our specialty property and casualty insurance (“P&C”) operations, partially offset by increased earnings in our annuity and supplemental (“A&S”) operations in the first nine months of 2011, contributed to these results. Nine month annualized core operating return on equity was 9%.
During the third quarter of 2011, AFG repurchased 2.6 million shares of common stock at an average price per share of $32.25. Repurchases during the first nine months of 2011 totaled 7.8 million shares at an average price per share of $33.70.
AFG’s net earnings attributable to shareholders, determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”), include certain items that may not be indicative of its ongoing core operations. The following table identifies such items and reconciles net earnings attributable to shareholders to core net operating earnings, a non-GAAP financial measure that AFG believes is a useful tool for investors and analysts in analyzing ongoing operating trends.
S. Craig Lindner and Carl H. Lindner III, AFG’s Co-Chief Executive Officers, issued this statement: “A continued low interest rate environment and national and global economic uncertainty require that our insurance professionals be more disciplined than ever in their underwriting and product pricing decisions. Despite these challenging circumstances, AFG produced solid core operating results for the third quarter and first nine months of 2011.
“We continued to repurchase shares of our common stock during the third quarter, which were acquired, on average, at approximately 83% of book value. We are confident in the Company’s financial strength and liquidity. We had parent company cash of $315 million and excess capital of approximately $725 million at September 30, 2011. We are committed to deploying our excess capital in a manner that creates long-term shareholder value. In addition to using excess capital for share repurchases and dividends, we continue to invest in healthy, profitable organic growth through the introduction of new products and services and look for opportunities to expand our specialty niche businesses through acquisitions and start-ups that meet our projected return thresholds.
“We reaffirm our core net operating earnings guidance for 2011 to be $3.30 to $3.70 per share. As has been our practice, this guidance excludes non-core items such as realized gains and losses as well as other significant items that may not be indicative of ongoing operations.”
P&C Specialty Core Results
The P&Cspecialty insurance operations generated an underwriting profit of $56 million in the 2011 third quarter, compared to $68 million in the third quarter of 2010. The combined ratio for the 2011 third quarter was 93%, 2 points higher than the comparable 2010 period. Results for the 2011 third quarter include $34 million (4 points) in favorable reserve development. By comparison, favorable reserve development in the third quarter of 2010 was $15 million (2 points). Losses from catastrophes totaled $13 million in the third quarter of 2011, primarily related to Hurricane Irene. Catastrophe losses in the third quarter of 2010 were $6 million. Underwriting profit for the first nine months of 2011 was $141 million, compared to $214 million in the comparable 2010 period.
Gross written premiums increased by approximately 24% and 16% for the third quarter and first nine months of 2011 when compared to the 2010 periods. Net written premiums for the 2011 third quarter and first nine months were 30% and 18% higher, respectively, than the same periods a year earlier. This growth was driven by higher premiums in our Property and Transportation segment, particularly our crop and transportation businesses. In addition to these factors, higher net written premiums in 2011 reflect the impact of a third quarter 2010 reinsurance transaction in our Specialty Financial group.
Further details of the P&C Specialty operations may be found in the accompanying schedules.
The Property and Transportation group reported an underwriting profit of $5 million in the 2011 third quarter, $36 million lower than the 2010 third quarter. Lower crop profits, higher catastrophe losses and lower underwriting profits in our transportation businesses contributed to these results. Underwriting profit in the first nine months of 2011 decreased approximately $43 million from the comparable 2010 period. Most businesses in this segment had strong underwriting margins through the first nine months of 2011.
Gross and net written premiums for the first nine months of 2011 were 32% and 29% higher than the comparable 2010 periods. Higher spring agricultural commodity prices, which have the effect of increasing our crop premiums, and premiums from National Interstate’s acquisition of Vanliner were primary drivers of this growth.
The Specialty Casualty group reported an underwriting profit of $20 million in the 2011 third quarter, compared to an underwriting loss of $13 million in the third quarter of 2010. The increase in underwriting profit was primarily attributable to a significant reduction in prior year adverse reserve development.
Improved results in our general liability, excess and surplus, and California Workers’ Comp businesses were offset somewhat by lower underwriting profits in our targeted markets operations.
Specialty Casualty underwriting profit in the first nine months of 2011 was $43 million, approximately $14 million higher than the comparable 2010 period. Higher underwriting profit in our excess and surplus lines and improved prior year favorable reserve development more than offset underwriting losses in a block of program business. Most businesses in this group produced strong underwriting profit margins through the first nine months of 2011.
For the third quarter of 2011, gross and net written premiums were down 3% when compared to the comparable 2010 period. Gross and net written premiums for the first nine months of 2011 were down 3% and 5%, respectively, from the comparable prior year period, consistent with our expectations. T
he non-renewal of two major programs that did not meet our return thresholds and a decision to exit the excess workers’ compensation business resulted in lower premiums in both 2011 periods.
The Specialty Financial group reported underwriting profit of $23 million for the third quarter of 2011, compared to $36 million for the same period a year ago. Higher catastrophe losses in our financial institutions business and lower favorable reserve development in our run-off automotive residual value insurance (“RVI”) business impacted 2011 results. Additionally, third quarter 2010 results reflect pre-tax income of approximately $8 million in connection with a reinsurance transaction involving the sale of unearned premiums related to our automotive lines of business. Specialty Financial underwriting profit was $46 million for the nine month period, compared to $91 million in the same 2010 period, primarily the result of lower favorable RVI reserve development and the 2010 reinsurance transaction. Almost all lines of business in this group produced excellent underwriting profit margins through the first nine months of 2011.
Increases in net written premiums in the 2011 third quarter and nine month periods were the result of a third quarter 2010 reinsurance transaction that involved the sale of unearned premiums related to our automotive lines of business. These increased premiums were offset to some extent by lower premiums in our financial institutions business, as a result of our reduction in coastal and near-coastal exposures.
Carl H. Lindner III stated, “Our commitment to carefully manage wind-exposed property coverages has resulted in some loss of premium, but has also been instrumental in helping us to contain losses from storms that have produced billions of dollars of losses for our industry. I’m pleased that AFG’s third quarter catastrophe losses represented only two points on our combined ratio. Additionally, I am encouraged that we have rate increases in some of our businesses. We know that our underwriting and pricing discipline serve us well today, and will continue to do so years from now. We remain on target to achieve our 2011 operating goals.”
Annuity and Supplemental Insurance Core Results
The A&S Group generated pretax core operating earnings in the first nine months of 2011 of $157 million, 6% higher than in the first nine months of 2010. However, for the third quarter, pretax core operating earnings were $49 million in 2011, compared to $58 million for the comparable 2010 period. Higher third quarter earnings due to asset growth and lower expenses were more than offset by the impact of the third quarter 2011 decrease in the stock market and, to a lesser extent, the accounting impact of lower interest rates on the Company’s fixed indexed annuity (“FIA”) operations.
A 14% decline in the S&P 500 Index during the third quarter of 2011 had a negative impact on variable and FIA results of approximately $8 million. FIA results for the 2011 third quarter were also adversely impacted by approximately $4 million due to a decline in interest rates. AFG expects that much of this negative impact will reverse over time. There was no impact on earnings in the third quarter of 2010 because the positive impact of an 11% increase in the S&P 500 Index was offset by a decline in interest rates.
AFG performs a review (“unlocking”) of its major actuarial assumptions throughout the year, including management’s expectation of long-term reinvestment rates. Given current market conditions, the effect of any such unlocking is not expected to be material to AFG. Excluding the potential impact of any unlocking, AFG now expects that full year 2011 A&S core operating results will be 12-15% higher than 2010, down from earlier guidance of 15-20%.
Statutory premiums of $992 million and $2.8 billion in the 2011 third quarter and first nine months were 20% and 40% higher, respectively, than the comparable periods in 2010. The third quarter results reflect increased sales of FIAs in the single premium market due primarily to the introduction of new products and features. Nine month results also reflect higher FIA sales as well as increased sales of annuities through banks as a result of the addition of several new banks to the distribution network. Sales of annuities have slowed since early September as AFG has lowered its crediting rates in response to the significant decrease in market interest rates.
AFG recorded third quarter 2011 net realized gains of $5 million after tax, compared to $15 million in the comparable prior year period. After-tax, realized gains for the first nine months of 2011 were $14 million, compared to $24 million in the same period in 2010. Unrealized gains on fixed maturities were $465 million, after tax, after DAC, at September 30, 2011. Our portfolio continues to be high quality, with 90% of our fixed maturity portfolio rated investment grade and 96% with a National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ designation of NAIC 1 or 2, its highest two categories.
During the first nine months of 2011, P&C investment income was 14% lower than the comparable 2010 period. As disclosed previously, the continued runoff and disposition of higher-yielding securities in the non-agency residential mortgage-backed securities portfolio and generally lower reinvestment rates were primary factors contributing to the decrease. We expect 2011 P&C investment income to be about 12% lower than in 2010.