Simply put, XL Group’s 2014 second quarter was both tough and solid.

The property/casualty and specialty insurer and reinsurer said it lost more than $279.2 million during the period, about $1.03 per share. That came in large part from a $621.3 million after-tax loss on the sale of its life reinsurance subsidiary to GreyCastle Holdings, the Ireland company said. In the 2013 second quarter, XL Group produced almost $272.7 million in net income, or $0.93 per share.

That hit aside, XL Group reported many other solid gains. Gross premiums written surpassed $2.1 billion during the quarter, up from more than $1.9 billion over the same period last year. That included a 4.5 percent jump in the reinsurance segment for gross premiums written over last year, the company said, fueled, in part, by new European aviation business, more agricultural premiums and the timing of North American casualty treaty renewals.

CEO Mike McGavick said during XL Group’s investor conference call that “nearly all core metrics are ahead of the prior year quarter.” And he particularly singled out the performance of the company’s reinsurance arm.

“We are really proud of the performance of our reinsurance colleagues [in light of] daily reports of reinsurance market turmoil,” McGavick said during the call. “Our gross premium written is where we were in the first half of last year. [Even] with tough discussion on rate and renewals, firms [such as XL Group] with distinctive offerings and historic relationships will continue to be in better positions.”

That said, McGavick is well aware that the reinsurance market continues to soften as it becomes even more competitive.

“We still expect the impact of the market. It is inescapable,” McGavick said. “We will continue to manage the book and let the chips fall where they may.”‘

Net premiums written stayed essentially flat at $1.43 billion versus nearly $1.46 billion in the 2013 second quarter.

Net premiums earned came in at nearly $1.44 billion, down from more than $1.48 billion a year ago. About $1 billion came from the insurance segment and $434 from reinsurance, and the dip was due mostly to the earn-through of increased proportional reinsurance in XL’s professional business, the company said.

Significantly, XL Group said it produced an underwriting profit of over $167.9 million, up from a $92.1 million underwriting profit in the 2013 second quarter. That took s combined ratio down to 88.3 for the 2014 second quarter, compared to 93.8 over the same period in 2013.

XL Group’s investment income remained steady, at $232.8 million for Q2 in 2014, compared to $232.5 million in the 2013 second quarter.

XL Group also aggressively pursued a share buyback program, purchasing 5.5 million shares for $175 million during the quarter ($31.96 per share). That task is continuing. The company said that $717.6 million of ordinary shares remained available for purchase as part of the program as of June 30.

McGavick noted in a statement that the company’s insurance segment produced a $62.6 million underwriting profit, well ahead of last year’s levels. He also touted the reinsurance division’s 75.7 combined ratio and modest growth in a highly competitive market as a good thing, reflecting “our deep market relationships and the resiliency of our franchise.”