W. R. Berkley Corp. reported $130.38 million in net income for the 2013 fourth quarter, a 21 percent decline compared to $165.49 million reported during the prior-year fourth quarter. The net income for the full year 2013 was $499.93 million, a 2 percent decline compared to 2012.

The Greenwich, Conn.-based insurer showed improved underwriting results. Consolidated net premiums written for the 2013 fourth quarter were $1.357 billion, up 10.5 percent compared to the 2012 fourth quarter. The GAAP combined ratio for the fourth quarter was 95.1 percent, improving from 98.1 percent a year ago. For the full year 2013, consolidated net premiums written were $5.500 billion, up 12.3 percent compared to the full year 2012. The GAAP combined ratio for 2013 was 95.1 percent, improving from 97.2 percent in 2012.

The insurer’s net investment gains fell compared to the prior year. The net investment gains for the fourth quarter were $30.69 million, down 73.7 percent from a year ago. Net investment gains for the full year 2013 were $127.58 million, down 36.7 percent from the prior year.

The insurer’s fourth quarter operating income — a non-GAAP measure showing net income excluding after-tax net investment gains and after-tax debt extinguishment costs — was $119.24 million, up 31.9 percent from a year ago. Operating income for 2013 was $430.17 million, up 15.1 percent from 2012.

“We were pleased with our fourth quarter results,” said William R. Berkley, chairman and chief executive officer. He noted that net written premiums were up approximately 11 percent for the quarter and that the company’s combined ratio improved.

He said price increases are outpacing loss cost trends, and although the fourth quarter rate increases were not as strong as the full year, margins have expanded further.

“We are beginning to make headway on our expense ratio, and anticipate additional improvement in both our overall underwriting results and our combined ratio in 2014,” CEO Berkley said.

“We remain focused on raising prices in order to maintain current margins and regain targeted profitability in some currently lagging lines of business. The challenge that our industry faces is the threat of inflation, which impacts pricing as well as adequate reserving.”

He said the company again reported positive reserve development, and that the company anticipates this will continue if inflation remains below expectation. “Our paid loss ratio on our ongoing business is approximately 52 percent, which demonstrates a positive trend for the ultimate loss ratio,” he also said.

“Looking ahead, we expect profitability to improve further without giving consideration to unusual catastrophe activity over the next several years,” he commented.