New York, NY – The Travelers Companies, Inc. recently reported net income of $617 million, or $2.17 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2017, compared to $691 million, or $2.30 per diluted share, in the prior year quarter. Core income in the current quarter was $614 million, or $2.16 per diluted share, compared to $698 million, or $2.33 per diluted share, in the prior year quarter. Net and core income in both the current and prior year quarters were impacted by significant catastrophe losses of $226 million after-tax ($347 million pre-tax) and $207 million after-tax ($318 million pre-tax), respectively.
The decreases from the prior year quarter were primarily driven by lower net favorable prior year reserve development that included a $51 million after-tax ($62 million pre-tax) impact from the UK Ministry of Justice’s recent “Ogden” discount rate adjustment, a lower underlying underwriting gain (i.e., excluding net favorable prior year reserve development and catastrophe losses) and higher catastrophe losses, partially offset by higher net investment income. The current quarter benefited from a $39 million resolution of prior year income tax matters, while the prior year quarter benefited modestly from the favorable settlement of a claims-related legal matter. Per diluted share amounts benefited from the impact of share repurchases.
“Core income of $614 million and core return on equity of 10.8% reflected unusually high first quarter catastrophe losses that arose from a record number of tornado and hail events,” commented Alan Schnitzer, Chief Executive Officer. “We were pleased with our underlying underwriting results and that loss trends were stable and consistent with our expectations for all of our businesses, including personal auto. We were also pleased with our investment results this quarter. Net investment income, which benefited from strong private equity returns, increased 9% on an after-tax basis over the prior year quarter. Our results enabled us to return $476 million to shareholders, including $286 million in share repurchases, while adding additional holding company liquidity to build flexibility for the funding of the Simply Business acquisition. In recognition of our strong financial position, the Board of Directors declared a 7.5% increase in our quarterly cash dividend to $0.72 per share and authorized an additional $5.0 billion of share repurchases.
“Net written premiums grew 5% to a record level this quarter, with each business segment contributing to the growth. In our commercial businesses, the markets in which we operate remained stable. We continued to achieve historically high levels of retention, and renewal rate change remained positive and improved modestly from recent quarters. The improvement in renewal rate change reflects our focused efforts to seek rate selectively and thoughtfully on an account-by-account or class-by-class basis. While we always actively seek new business opportunities, new business was down modestly from the prior year quarter as we continued to maintain our disciplined approach to underwriting. In Personal Insurance, net written premiums increased by 12%, including the impact of auto rate increases that were consistent with our plans to improve profitability. We were also pleased that we were able to continue the momentum in growing our very profitable homeowners business.
“With technology and innovation driving customer preferences and expectations, advancing our digital agenda to best serve customers and our distribution partners, now and in the future, is a key strategic priority. To that end, during the quarter we announced an agreement to purchase Simply Business, a leading digital provider of insurance to small businesses in the United Kingdom. Our investment in Simply Business will accelerate our digital agenda, building on the competitive advantages that have enabled us to deliver industry-leading returns.”
The complete results release is available here: Travelers First Quarter 2017 Results (PDF)