Ace Limited (ACE)

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ACE Limited (ACE)

Q2 2010 Earnings Call Transcript

July 28, 2010 8:30 am ET

Executives

Helen Wilson – IR

Evan Greenberg – Chairman and CEO

Phil Bancroft – CFO

Sean Ringsted – Chief Risk Officer and Chief Actuary

John Keogh – CEO, ACE Overseas General

Brian Dowd – CEO, Insurance, North America; Vice Chairman, ACE Limited and ACE Group Holdings

Analysts

Keith Walsh – Citi

Jay Gelb – Barclays Capital

Thomas Mitchell – Miller Tabak

Vinay Misquith – Credit Suisse

Mike Grasher – Piper Jaffray

Matthew Heimermann – JPMorgan

Brian Meredith – UBS

Paul Newsome – Sandler O’Neill

Cliff Gallant – KBW

Jay Cohen – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Greg Locraft – Morgan Stanley

Ian Gutterman – Adage Capital

Presentation

Operator

Good day and welcome to the ACE Limited second quarter 2010 earnings conference call. Today’s call is being recorded.

Now, for opening remarks and introductions, I would like to turn the call over to Helen Wilson, Investor Relations. Please go ahead, ma’am.

Helen Wilson

Thank you and welcome to the ACE Limited June 30, 2010 second quarter earnings conference call.

Our report today will contain forward-looking statements. These include statements relating to economic and insurance industry pricing and other trends, our financial outlook and guidance, competition and growth prospects, all of which are subject to risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially.

Please refer to our most recent SEC filings as well as our earnings press release and financial supplement which are available on our Web site for more information on factors that could affect these matters.

This call is being webcast live and will be available for replay for one month. All remarks made during the call are current at the time of the call and will not be updated to reflect subsequent material developments.

Now, I’d like to introduce our speakers. First, we have Evan Greenberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer followed by Phil Bancroft, our Chief Financial Officer. And then, we’ll take your questions. Also, with us to assist with your questions are several members of our management team.

Now, it’s my pleasure to turn the call over to Evan.

Evan Greenberg

Good morning. As you saw from the numbers, ACE had an excellent second quarter which contributed to a strong first six months. After-tax operating income for the quarter was $688 million, just over $0.02 a share. Net income was $677 million and was up about 27% from the second quarter last year. All divisions of the company made a contribution to results, a strong contribution.

Per share book value grew almost 4% and now it stands at over $63 and book value per share is up 8% year-to-date and our ROE was 13.8% in the quarter, up from 12% in the first quarter. Our combined ratio for the quarter was 89.7%, which included net catastrophe losses mostly from U.S. events of $76 million and favorable prior period reserve development of about $150 million.

Cat losses were more than double the amount from last year, but largely in line with our expectations, while prior period development was a little less than prior. Our accident year combined for the quarter excluding cats and PPD was $92.1 million, a very good result and flat with prior year, with the loss ratio down and expense ratio up. Phil will provide more detail around the current accident year numbers.

I want to make a few comments about the macro and insurance market environment and its impact on our company. Economic growth was weak, particularly in Europe and the U.S. and it remains so, while conditions are considerably better in Asia and Latin America. Unemployment in the U.S. and Europe remains high and likely will for years to come.

In the U.S., there is generally a lack of confidence among consumers and business alike and with little meaningful impetus for sustained economic growth; we are likely in a period of prolonged slow growth. In addition, insurance market conditions remain competitive with prices generally soft and softening around the world. I expect these macro conditions will be with us for the foreseeable future though there is much uncertainty.

On a reported basis, our total company net premiums were flat in the quarter. Commercial P&C was down. A&H, personal lines and Life were up. We continue to practice what we believe is prudent cycle management in our commercial P&C businesses, shedding exposure where prices in terms are inadequate to generate an underwriting profit.

Our new business writings were down year-on-year and our renewal retention rates, particularly in our retail P&C businesses were up. Recession-related reduction and exposures are moderating and had less than a 2 point impact on revenue in the quarter, the lowest in a number of quarters.

Retail insurance again performed better than wholesale with retail up about 1.5% while wholesale was shrinking about 6%. Adjusting for a large loss portfolio transaction we wrote last year in North America, as well as less crop premium in our U.S. wholesale business, retail commercial P&C was actually up over 7% and wholesale was up 3%, though our growth benefited from a positive foreign exchange impact of about 2 points.

On the wholesale side of the business, we continue to shrink our book where necessary due to inadequate pricing. For example, premiums were down about 8% in our London wholesale business where competitive London market conditions continue to impact nearly all lines including marine, aviation, energy and property. In our U.S. wholesale business premiums were down about 7%. Adjusting for the crop, however, premiums were up 15%.

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