RLI Posts Strong Earnings Despite Q4 Cat Losses

US specialty carrier RLI Corp comfortably outpaced Wall Street forecasts with operating profits of $17.8mn, or $0.40 a share for the fourth quarter.

Source: The Insurer | Published on January 24, 2019

In a quarter adversely affected by industry cat losses, the performance was significantly below the $53.9mn, or $1.21 a share generated in the prior-year period.

But operating earnings per share were well ahead of the $0.14 consensus of analyst forecasts compiled by MarketWatch.

The per share result included a $0.35 hit from Hurricane Michael that was partially offset by $0.20 a share from reserve releases in casualty.

Hurricane Michael losses decreased underwriting income by $19.6mn, with the reserve releases adding back $9.6mn.

Company-wide, the Peoria, Illinois-based insurer reported underwriting income of $2.2mn, with a combined ratio of 98.9 percent, compared to $9.0mn and 95.2 percent respectively in Q4 2017.

Unsurprisingly, the combined ratio was highest in RLI’s property business, at 129.8 percent, with casualty and surety underwriting profitable as the units recorded combined ratios of 93.6 percent and 83.9 percent respectively.

In the prior-year period, RLI’s casualty portfolio generated a 101.2 percent combined ratio, while property (88.4 percent) and surety (78.5 percent) were both profitable.

Top line at the insurer climbed 12 percent to $257.4mn of gross written premium, while on a net written basis premium was up by a more modest 10 percent as a slightly higher percentage was ceded to reinsurers.

RLI’s net investment income for the quarter climbed 17.4 percent to $17.0mn.

However, net unrealized losses in the carrier’s equity investment portfolio of $64.2mn were the key driver in it falling to a $20.7mn net loss for the quarter, compared to a $57.4mn profit in Q4 2017.

RLI continued its stellar dividend-paying record, with a special cash dividend of $1.00 a share and a regular dividend of $0.22 a share in the quarter for a combined payout of $54.3mn.

“The industry experienced another active year of natural catastrophes, but RLI’s underwriting discipline and product diversification once again distinguished our company,” said RLI chairman and CEO Jonathan Michael.