For AXIS Capital Holdings, Ltd., the 2015 fourth quarter represented a last-minute surge of sorts.

After an otherwise down year in terms of gross and net written premiums, both spiked higher in Q4, and catastrophe/weather losses were down compared to the same period in 2015.

At the same time, net investment income was flat and cash flow declined. Also, net income came in at $135 million, or $1.39 per diluted common share, down from $164 million, or $160 million per diluted common share in the 2014 fourth quarter.

AXIS President and CEO Albert Benchimol said challenges helped make the Bermuda-based specialty insurer and reinsurer stronger as the year drew to a close.

“While 2015 was a challenging year on many fronts, it was also a year of powerful maturation across our organization, resulting in a stronger, more focused AXIS,” Benchimol said in prepared remarks. “Over the course of the year, we steered the company towards a future of enhanced profitability and stability.”

Bechimol added that he sees AXIS as “executing on the right actions for the current challenging market conditions – improving the quality of our book of business, growing the scale and profitability of recent initiatives and tightening expense control and capital efficiency.”

Some of those changes included the pursuit of new business in the Middle East and Africa, but cutbacks in places such as Australia, where AXIS eliminated 100 jobs and wound down its retail insurance business. (AXIS said it would stay active in Australia through its international wholesale insurance and global reinsurance platforms.)

Here’s a rundown of some fourth quarter highlights:

  • Gross written premiums came in at $800 million, 5 percent higher versus the same period in 2014.
  • Net written premiums reached $595 million, a 7 percent hike year-over-year.
  • Net premiums earned declined 4 percent.
  • AXIS handled $10 million in estimated catastrophe and weather-related pre-tax net losses, mostly due to U.S. weather events. Over the same period in 2014, those costs hit $21 million.
  • A 94.5 combined ratio for the AXIS insurance segment, versus 92.7 in Q4 2014. The uptick came from increased mid-size and attritional loss experience in the marine and liability lines, but was partially offset by improved loss experience in areas including credit and political risk, and property and professional lines, plus changes in the business mix.
  • Net investment income stayed flat at $79 million.
  • Net cash flow from operation reached $88 million, down from $126 million in the 2014 fourth quarter.
  • AXIS increased its share repurchase authorization program to $750 million of the company’s common shares during the quarter, effective through Dec. 31, 2016.

Some highlights from the full year:

  • Gross premiums written decreased by $108 million to $4.6 billion. They declined $155 million, or 7 percent in AXIS’s reinsurance segment. This was partially offset by a $48 million, jump in AXIS’s insurance segment.
  • Net premiums written hit $3.7 billion, a 6 percent decline over 2014. Net premiums earned also came in at $3.7 billion, a 5 percent drop versus the previous year.
  • AXIS produced a 94.7 combined ratio, versus 91.6 in 2014.
  • AXIS reported a net favorable prior year reserve development of $243 million, which benefited the combined ratio by 6.6 points. This compares to $259 million, and a 6.7 point benefit for the combined ratio, in 2014.
  • AXIS earned $315 million from PartneRe after it terminated its merger agreement with the company, Included in our corporate expenses, PartnerRe merger-related costs of $36 million;
  • Net investment income came in at $305 million, an 11 percent decrease compared to 2014.

Source: AXIS Capital Holdings