ACE Ltd. is in a position to be bullish about the vast majority of its 2014 fourth quarter results. The property/casualty insurance giant booked a sizable jump in underwriting income, growth in net investment income, and reaped the benefits from years of acquisitions and organic growth.
Read on for the catch.
Gross premiums written, net premiums written and net premiums earned all grew substantially in Q4. ACE also kept its combined ratio at a competitive level. But fourth-quarter net income plunged year-over-year, thanks to currency fluctuations that brought the dollar’s value much higher than during the same period in 2013.
Foreign exchange rates negatively impacted book value by $596 million in Q4 and $747 million for the year, ACE said. Per share book value grow 6.1 percent for the year, but would have climbed 8.8 percent without the currency fluctuations. During the company’s earning’s conference call, ACE Chairman and CEO Evan Greenberg downplayed the impact of a strong dollar on his company’s bottom line.
“We don’t give guidance, but you see what impact [currency fluctuation] had on revenue growth,” Greenberg said. “I think you see a theme that a stronger dollar obviously impacts revenue, though [it is] a modest impact on earnings.”
Greenberg added that even with a rapid investor flight to the dollar, “our shareholders will continue to benefit from our global presence.”
What’s more, Greenberg said ACE remains on a growth trajectory for 2015.
“As you well know we are pretty vigorous planners,” Greenberg said. “We have a plan for 2015 and our growth in the fourth quarter and growth in the first quarter as far as we can see in local currencies continues as we expect it to be. There are always some places that get a little worse because of economic activity, and some places that get better. Overall, we are looking pretty good.”
ACE said it drew in $555 in net income for Q4, or $1.66 per share, down from $998 million, or $2.90 per share over the same period in 2013.
Other earnings highlights:
- ACE’s P/C combined ratio for the quarter came in at a healthy 88.5, compared to 89.3 in Q4 2013.
- Gross premiums written surpassed $5.7 billion during the 2014 fourth quarter, versus $5.46 billion in the 2013 fourth quarter.
- Net premiums written came in at $4.3 billion, up from $4.2 billion in the 2013 fourth quarter.
- Net premiums earned landed at $4.37 billion, a slight uptick from $4.36 billion over the same, year-ago period.
- Net investment income reached $577 million during the quarter, a jump over $557 million in the 2013 fourth quarter.
For the full year, ACE reported $23.9 billion in gross premiums written, up from $22.8 billion in 2013. Net premiums written nearly hit $17.8 billion, an increase over $17 billion in net premiums written the year before. Net premiums earned are booked at $17.4 billion, a sizable jump over $16.6 billion in 2013.
ACE’s P/C combined ratio for 2014 is 87.7 almost on par with 88 from 2013.