ACE Ltd. generated mostly robust 2014 second-quarter results. Chairman and CEO Evan Greenberg acknowledged as much during the company’s investor call on July 23. But he spend a lot of time on expansion in emerging markets, particularly ACE’s previously announced plans to acquire the large corporate property/casualty business of Itaú Seguros, S.A. from Itaú Unibanco S.A. for roughly $685 million.
The transaction, expected to be completed in early 2015, will make ACE the largest property/casualty insurer in Brazil. It’s part of ACE’s broader strategy to generate new growth from emerging markets in Asia and Latin America. Greenberg continued during the call to tout the deal’s benefits.
Itaú’s business has “an impressive management and underwriting team and discipline and technically-oriented underwriting culture similar to ours,” Greenberg said. “It brings a lot of talent that when combined with ours makes us that much stronger. One plus one here equals much more than two.”
He said that ACE will help Itaú inprove its competitive profile in Brazil, and that the deal will also raise ACE’s profile “significantly” by helping it become that much more local in terms of how to do business in Brazil.”
Greenberg said ACE should recoup its investment in the Itaú business pretty quickly.
“The transaction will be accretive to earnings immediately,” he said. “We expect the [return on investment] in year two will exceed our cost to capital, and by year three, the [return on investment] will equal or exceed ACE Group’s projected average ROE and increase from there.”
Greenberg said during that call that the company is also eager to complete its purchase of The Siam Commercial Samaggi Insurance PCL from Siam Commercial Bank. In April, ACE acquired a 60.9 percent stake in the general insurance company and committed to purchasing the rest of the operation that they don’t already own in the following weeks.
Greenberg noted during the earnings call that ACE now owns 95 percent of Samaggi and expects to integrate its auto, small commercial, personal accident insurance and other business lines “sooner than originally projected.” He gushed about this deal, too.
“ACE Samaggi is a great fit to our existing business in Thailand,” Greenberg said. “We see more potential there then when we first announced our acquisition.”
Greenberg added that the “combined operation will turbocharge our ability to grow each focused areas of business,” and that ACE is now the largest foreign-owned property/casualty insurer in Thailand.
When questioned about risks ACE faces in pursuing growth in emerging markets such as Brazil and Thailand, Greenberg insisted the strategy made sense.
“ASIA and Latin America, that is where the growth is coming from,” Greenberg said during the call. “Of course there is risk, and we believe that in the acquisitions we make, we get paid to take that risk. You’re going to have mistakes, things that don’t go as well as you expect, but the risk- management capabilities [are] here… and all provide safeguards.”
ACE booked $825 million in operating income during the 2014 second quarter, 4.5 percent higher than $790 million produced during the same period a year ago. That equates to operating income of $2.42 per diluted share, versus $2.29 per diluted share in the 2013 second quarter.
Catastrophe losses and lower commodity prices in the agriculture insurance division prevented operating income from rising more, ACE said.
In addition, net income dipped to $779 million, however ($2.28 per diluted share), versus $891 million ($2.59 per diluted share) in the 2013 second quarter.
ACE’s property/casualty combined ratio reached 87.7 during the quarter, slightly better than 87.9 over the same period last year. P/C net premiums written surpassed $4 billion during the quarter, versus $3.9 billion in the 2013 second quarter. Underwriting income for the division hit the $478 million threshold, up more than 10 percent from $434 million in p/c underwriting income last year.
For global property/casualty, excluding agriculture, ACE reported $3.67 billion in net premiums written and $451 million in underwriting income. In the 2013 second quarter, ACE’s global p/c business produced $3.4 billion in net premiums written and $399 million in underwriting income. The combined ratio here came in at 87.1, versus 87.7 in the 2013 second quarter.
ACE’s agriculture arm generated $388 million in net premiums written during the 2014 second quarter, down from $453 million in the 2013 second quarter. Underwriting income came it at $27 million, down from $35 million a year ago. This division produced a 91.8 combined ratio, versus an 89.9 combined ratio in the 2013 second quarter.
Net investment income reached $556 million, a 4 percent increase over the previous year.