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Montpelier Re Holdings Ltd. (MRH)

Q1 2009 Earnings Call Transcript

April 28, 2009 8:30 am ET


Jonathan Kim – SVP, General Counsel and Secretary

Chris Harris – President and CEO

David Sinnott – EVP and Chief Underwriting Officer

Mike Paquette – EVP and CFO



Greetings ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Montpelier Re Holdings Limited first quarter 2009 conference call. (Operator instructions). It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Mr. Jonathan Kim, General Counsel and Secretary of Montpelier Re. Thank you, Mr. Kim, you may begin.

Jonathan Kim

Thank you and good morning. Welcome to Montpelier Re's first quarter 2009 earnings conference call and webcast. A press release setting out our results, together with a detailed financial supplement have been posted to the company's website at This call is being webcast live and will be available for replay until May 06, 2009.

Our speakers today are our Chris Harris, President and CEO; David Sinnott, Chief Underwriting Officer; and Mike Paquette, Chief Financial Officer. Chris and David will give their commentary on the quarter, and then Mike will present an overview of the financial results. We will then be pleased to take your questions.

During our discussions this morning, we may make forward-looking statements. Any such statements are based on the company’s current plans, estimates, and expectations. Actual results could differ materially from those projected in any forward-looking statements as a result of certain risk factors disclosed previously and from time-to-time in Montpelier's filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

I would now like to turn the proceedings over to Chris. Chris?

Chris Harris

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The Montpelier Group produced a solid result in quarter one 2009 with positive contribution from both underwriting and investment operations. We grew fully converted book value per share by 3.2% for the quarter. We increased shareholders equity by $80 million, and we grew that written premium by plus 7% versus the prior year or plus 10% adjusting for reinstatement premium impact.

As I noted last quarter, we expected to benefit from twin tailwinds of improved rate and improved access to business from our broader operating platform. We have seen encouraging signs in both of these areas. On the rate front, our overall renewal price index shows a plus 5% improvement year-to-date versus a 9% decline for the same period last year. Stronger rate levels and a broader business mix allowed us to grow net written premiums even though we reduced our overall catastrophe risk profile.

Additionally, the London and U.S. platforms continued to mature with those operations now accounting for 28% of quarter one premium versus only 17% last year. We completed two capital transactions during the quarter. First, we raised 32 million of equity capital in connection with the termination of our variable forward agreement. Second, we repurchased 21 million of senior debt.

In both cases, we believe we bolstered our shareholders equity at an opportune time at favorable economics. With the variable forward exercise, we raised 32 million of capital at a 24% premium to the prior day closing price while the debt repurchase resulted in an immediate $6 million gain. We are very well positioned for the remainder of 2009 and we believe our current capital base is adequate to support our underwriting needs.

One last note, I would like to remind listeners that Montpelier Re will be hosting an Investor Day in New York next Thursday, May 7. At that meeting, we will provide more details on underwriting segments and more commentary on our outlook for 2009. A live webcast will be available on our website, but we look forward to see many of you there in persons.

With that, I will turn it over to David.

David Sinnott

Thank you, Chris and good morning ladies and gentlemen. We were pleased with the underwriting performance in the first quarter of 2009. Trading conditions are improving in the majority of the classes we underwrite and we continue to see a steady stream of new opportunities at Lloyd’s and in our U.S. operations.

Additionally, the frequency of large individual risk losses that adversely impacted the results a year ago did not feature in this quarter. Montpelier Re Group registered 251 million of gross written premium during the first quarter of 2009 versus 257 million in the prior year, a decrease of 2%. This reduction is mainly attributable to a decline in the property catastrophe segment, which reflects our decision as reported last quarter to reduce gross exposures at January 1 in anticipation of the lasting of certain outwards reinsurance protections.

The negative impact on gross premium volume of these cuts was offset to some extent by gains in the property and other specialty treaty segments outside of Bermuda and price increases on renewal business in the majority of classes underwritten. As anticipated in last quarter's call, these actions had a beneficial impact on our net position as net written premiums increased from 222 million in the prior year to 238 million, a gain of 7% aided by a reduction in seeded premiums of approximately 22 million.

In light of the prevailing cost of that repression [ph] as compared with pricing on our direct reinsurance book, we believed the decision to bring down our gross exposures in conjunction with less reinsurance purchase will result in better portfolio economics. Turning to the current pricing environment, the general pattern of rate when we observed at January 1 carried forward to the April 1 renewals, albeit outside of Japan, the flow of submissions is comparatively light. The cumulative premium weighted renewal price index year-to-date including April was 105, with U.S. CAT expose business continuing to show the most market improvements year-to-year.

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