Early on in the fourth-quarter earnings call for AXIS Capital Holdings Ltd., company president and CEO Albert Benchimol warned that he and his team would be able to say very little about a planned $11 billion merger with fellow Bermuda-based reinsurer PartnerRe Ltd.
Still, Benchimol did his best to stick to the script regarding the deal, which involves PartnerRe shareholders getting 51.6 percent of the new company and AXIS investors holding 48.4 percent. There were plenty of platitudes.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Benchimol said.
His other comments regarding the deal involved “taking our franchise strength to the next level” with “added scale and better strategic positioning,” an expectation of “profitable growth to rebalance the consolidated portfolio,” plans for “share repurchasing to resume immediately after the merger” and predictions of “major merger savings within 18 months” of the expected deal completion later this year.
As well, Benchimol insisted that “employees from both organizations are excited” about the merger agreement, and that “they see the benefits to each of our businesses.”
But reports surfaced this week that PartnerRe might draw bids from rivals Alleghany Corp. and France’s Scor SE, which could potentially break up the merger agreement between AXIS and PartnerRe, despite hefty breakup fees.
Benchimol and his team did not go anywhere near that story. An analyst attempted to do so, however, asking if AXIS’s door is open to other offers, and to what extent AXIS is capital of looking at a better offer for someone to buy it.
“I don’t think you really expect me to answer that question, do you?” Benchimol replied.
He and his team went on to state that those questions are hypotheticals and speculative areas, and that they would not address them.
As far as AXIS 2014 fourth quarter went, it was generally one of stagnation or decline, with a few positive exceptions, thanks, in part to a low year for catastrophes.
The Bermuda-based insurer and reinsurer said it produced $164 million in net income during the quarter ($1.60 per diluted common share), down from $172 million ($1.52 per diluted common share) in the 2013 fourth quarter.
AXIS’ insurance combined ratio came in at 92.7, an improvement over 97.8 in the 2013 fourth quarter. Its reinsurance combined ratio registered at 81.7 for Q4, a step in the right direction from an 83.4 combined ratio over the same period last year.
Here are highlights from AXIS’ insurance and reinsurance divisions during the fourth quarter.
For the insurance division, gross premiums written came in at $624.3 million, net premiums written hit $418.15 million, and net premiums earned are booked at $461.9 million for the 2014 fourth quarter. That compares to $606.6 million in gross premiums written, $427.6 million in net premiums written and $450.5 million premiums earned over the same period in 2013.
On the reinsurance side, AXIS said its Q4, 2014 results landed at $137.7 million in gross premiums written, $136.87 million in net premiums written and $496.66 million in net premiums earned. In the 2013 fourth quarter, reinsurance gross premiums written were $219.4 million, with net premiums written at $220.3 million, and net premiums earned at $491.4 million.
AXIS said that net investment income for the fourth quarter is booked at $78.6 million, a drop over $113.86 million in the 2013 third quarter.
For the year, AXIS generated $3.87 billion in net premiums earned, up from $3.7 billion in 2013. Net investment income came in at $342.77 million, down from $409.3 million over the same period last year. Net income surpassed $771million ($7.29 per diluted common share), compared with $684 million ($5.93 per common share) in 2013.