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HCI Group, Inc. (NYSE:HCI)

Q2 2014 Earnings Conference Call

August 5, 2014 4:30 PM ET

Executives

Kevin Mitchell – Vice President-Investor Relations

Paresh Patel – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Richard R. Allen – Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

Casey Alexander – Gilford Securities, Inc.

Dan Farrell – Sterne, Agee & Leach, Inc.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Operator

Greetings and welcome to the HCI Group, Inc. Second Quarter 2014 Earnings Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A brief question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Kevin Mitchell, Investor Relations for HCI Group, Inc. Thank you, Mr. Mitchell. You may now begin.

Kevin Mitchell

Thank you, and good afternoon. Welcome to the HCI Group second quarter 2014 earnings call. With me today are Paresh Patel, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; and Richard Allen, our Chief Financial Officer.

Following Paresh’s opening remarks Richard will review our financial performance for the quarter and then turn the call back to Paresh for an operational update and business outlook. Finally we will open up the call to your questions.

To access today’s webcast, please visit the Investor Relations section of our corporate website hcigroup.com.

Before we begin, I would like to take the opportunity to remind our listeners that today’s presentation and responses to questions may contain forward-looking statements made pursuant to the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as anticipate, estimate, expect, intend, plan and project and other similar words and expressions are intended to signify forward-looking statements.

Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future results and conditions but rather are subject to various risks and uncertainties. Some of these risks and uncertainties are identified in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Should any risks or uncertainties develop into actual events, these developments could have material adverse effects on the Company’s business, financial condition and results of operations. HCI Group, Inc. disclaims all obligations to update any forward-looking statements.

Now I would like to turn the call over to Paresh Patel, our Chairman and CEO, Paresh?

Paresh Patel

Thank you, Kevin, and good afternoon, everyone. As Richard will demonstrate in a moment, the fundamental of our insurance business remains strong as we continue to build a solid platform of diverse yet complementary business units.

Among the highlights for Q2 2014; first, we repurchased and retired 277,510 shares of HCI common stock at a total cost of approximately $10 million, or an average purchase price of $36.03 per share. This brings the total number of shares repurchased and retired in 2014 to 488,346 shares at a total cost of $17.8 million with an average purchase price of $36.45.

As of June 30, 2014, we have $22.2 million remaining under our Board approved plan that was implemented in March of 2014. This reaffirms our commitment to the shareholders as we continue to create long-term value. Secondly, we redeemed all of our preferred shares. Third, our flood insurance rollout has progressed modestly. Much of the momentum has been diminished by the changes to Biggert-Waters Act. However, we remain optimistic that the right path to grow in that business is still intact and growing.

Fourth, we finalized our reinsurance program for the current wind season. We believe we are well insured. The program provides full coverage for one-in-182 year event. Looking differently, our program covers 2% of our total exposure statewide, 6% of our peak regional exposure and 10% of our peak county exposure.

To elaborate, on an absolute basis we have enough reinsurance to cover this whole destruction of about one-in-50 homes we insured statewide or one-in-16 homes in our peak region, which is Southeast Florida from Miami to West Palm Beach, or finally you can look at it as one-in-10 homes in Broward County, which is Fort Lauderdale could be destroyed and we have enough reinsurance for that. These two presents high rate of losses that obviously would not have been isolated just to us, but to the entire industry should they occur.

Secondly, we have also reduced our exposure within – that we’re retaining, that are captive for this winter season. And we did this as rates have softened dramatically. As far as other divisions, the real estate division continues to evaluate opportunities and has begun to add to its portfolio of real estate holdings. We expect more to come from this division in the future.

Our technology division, Exzeo, rolled out confidence to a small, but growing number of agencies. It represents the second product in service and more products are on the way.

Before I go on I would like to invite our Chief Financial Officer, Richard Allen, to take us through our financial performance for the second quarter. Richard?

Richard R. Allen

Thank you, Paresh, and good afternoon, everyone. For the second quarter of 2014 income available to common stockholders totaled $16.4 million or $1.39 diluted earnings per common share. This compares to $16.2 million or $1.40 diluted earnings per common share in the second quarter of 2013.

Gross premiums earned in the second quarter of 2014 increased 11.3% to $91.2 million from $82 million reported in the second quarter of 2013. This increase was primarily due to the renewal premium and new policies assumed from Citizens in 2012 and 2013.

Net premiums earned for the second quarter of 2014 increased 9.3% to $62.6 million from $57.3 million in the same year-ago period. Premiums ceded in the second quarter of 2014 were 31.3% of gross premiums earned. This compares with 30% in the second quarter of 2013. Quarterly reinsurance cost for the treaty year ending May 31, 2013 increased approximately $6 million per quarter from the prior treaty year.

As discussed in previous earnings calls, included in the ceded premiums were the three and six-month periods of 2014, are the benefits from the multiyear reinsurance treaties entered into in June of 2013 of $5.1 million and $10.5 million, respectively. The amount recorded in inception today of these treaties is $23.1 million. We do anticipate that reinsurance costs for the treaty year starting June 1, 2014 will be less than the prior treaty year.

Since year-end 2013, we have increased our fixed income position in our investment portfolio, which led to $1.5 million in net investment income for the second quarter of 2014, a significant improvement from $295,000 in the same period a year ago. Losses and loss adjustment expenses during the quarter of 2014 were $18.4 million, compared with $17.4 million in the second quarter of 2013.

Policy acquisition and other underwriting expenses in the second quarter of 2014 were $9.6 million compared with $7.3 million in the same year-ago period. The year-over-year increase was primarily attributable to the renewal of policies assumed from Citizens in 2012 and 2013, which are subject to commissions and premium taxes on renewal.

Other operating expenses, which include a variety of general and administrative expenses, totaled $9.4 million in the second quarter of 2014 compared with $7.4 million in the second quarter of 2013. The increase was primarily due to an increase in compensation of $2 million, which includes stock-based compensation.

Interest expense from our senior notes totaled $2.6 million in the second quarter of 2014. The Company’s 3.875% convertible notes that were issued in December of 2013 were the main reason for the increase, compared with $846,000 in the second quarter of 2013.

Turning to our financial ratios. Due to the impact of reinsurance cost on net premiums earned from quarter-to-quarter, we believe the combined ratio measured to gross premiums earned is more useful in assessing HCI’s overall underwriting performance.

Our loss ratio applicable through the second quarter of 2014 which we define as losses and loss adjustment expenses related to gross premiums earned was 20.2% and 21.2% in the second quarter of 2013.

For the six-month periods ending June 30, comparable loss and loss expense ratios were 20% and 20.2% respectively. The expense ratio applicable to the second quarter of 2014 which we define as underwriting expenses, interest and other operating expenses related to gross premiums earned, was 23.6%, compared with 19%in the same period last year.

For the six months, the expense ratio was 23.1% for 2014, and 17.2% for 2013. Significant factor and profitability as a ratio of ceded premiums to gross earned premiums. For the second quarter of 2014, this ratio was 31.3% compared to 30% for 2013. For the six-month period the corresponding ratios are 30.3% for 2014 and 28.4% for 2013.

Combined expense ratios which we define as a total of all expenses in relation to gross premiums earned, for the three-month periods ending June 30, 2014 and 2013, are 75.1% and 70.2% respectively. Comparable ratios for the six-month period were 73.4% for 2014 and 65.8% for 2013.

On the balance sheet, investments on fixed-maturity and equity securities totaled $160.2 million at June 30, 2014, an increase from $129.8 million at December 31, of 2013. Total stockholders’ equity at June 30 was $176.1 million, up 9.7% from $160.5 million at December 31, 2013. Book value for common share has increased to $16.47, compared with $14.68 per share at December 31, 2013.

With that I like to turn the call back over to Paresh, Paresh?

Paresh Patel

Thank you Richard. With the numbers Richard gave, we are now clearly seeing the Company achieving a rare feat, and a feat that we see continuing going forward. It is pursuing growth opportunities while simultaneously paying a healthy dividend, reducing share count meaningfully, increasing book value and increasing shareholder equity at the same time.

In summary, our portfolio, our profitable core insurance business, coupled with our strong cash position, allows us to patiently seek accretive growth opportunities. We have the benefits of in-house technology, a strong balance sheet and a highly experienced management team. These factors combined with our disciplined underwriting approach have led to sustainable models for long term viability and growth. We look forward to challenges and opportunities ahead.

With that we’re ready to open the call for your questions. Operator, please provide the operating instructions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. We will now be conducting a question-and-answer session (Operator Instructions) Thank you. Our first question comes from the line of Matt Carletti with JMP. Please proceed with your question.

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

Hi good afternoon.

Paresh Patel

Good afternoon Matt.

Richard R. Allen

Good afternoon Matt.

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

Just have one kind of high-level question and then a couple numbers questions. On the high-level question, I was hoping you could expand a little more on the traction that Proplet is getting thus far in terms of lead generation or policy generation with agents for HCI. And then also, too, whether it’s Proplet itself or the data base behind it, some of your thoughts on potential other applications for the technology?

Paresh Patel

Sure Matt. As far as the traction with the agents, it’s getting to be very interesting, because the whole idea behind Proplet and when people see it, it sort of reverses how they are used to doing business, so it taking a little while for everybody to sort of figure out how to exploit this knowledge to its full advantage, right. Having said that, you’re starting see the earlier than starting to understand what it could mean and then going forward from there.

So it is starting to have an effect. Over the course of time, obviously it’s one aspect of all other aspects of the business, but it is showing very promising early result. As far as the underlying technology and everything else, the more people that are seeing it, the more folks are coming up with new and innovative ways of using it.

I don’t want to make this too big of a thing, but it’s sort of like, when iPhones come in, when it first came out it was just like a cool phone with an iPod built-in out so that you could make phone calls on. And then people started thinking of different ways you could use it and now it’s going into whole different direction.

We’re sort of seeing similar kinds of traction with Proplet, but its early days yet.

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

Okay. I mean, some of those potential other uses do you see down the road? Obviously not next quarter per se or anything, but taking a longer-term view, is it, like, licensing-type applications and fee income potential, or something else?

Paresh Patel

Well it’s too early to tell, but every time we show it to people, they sort of say, hey we could it this way, or you could use it that way to market it. Instead of waiting for people to walk-in into an agency and then you give him a quote, how about we mail him a quote there, because they the interest of the callers. So it’s almost like getting pre-approved credit card applications on the mail. Those kinds of things people are looking at and what’s effectively, et cetera. So some of those things are going to be a little bit of hit and miss in the early months, but, I think, eventually somebody will figure out the right formula and off we go.

And this is just one thread, there’s lots of different threads like this that people are looking at.

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

Okay. Thanks. And then just a couple quick numbers questions, if you have them. I'd love to know what gross written and net written premiums were for the quarter.

Richard R. Allen

We’re just looking to have an impression, to get me about try and get back to you before this call is over.

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

That would be greater.

Richard R. Allen

Sorry I just got to find it.

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

No problem. Thanks a lot and congrats on the quarter.

Paresh Patel

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question is from Cassey Alexander from Gilford Securities. Please proceed with your questions.

Casey Alexander – Gilford Securities, Inc.

Hi, good afternoon. The interest expense was a little higher than I had calculated. Is there some amortization of the offered expenses built in there?

Richard R. Allen

Yes it is.

Casey Alexander – Gilford Securities, Inc.

Okay. And secondly, I know the way that the reinsurance contracts are structured, you start to build this asset of prepaid reinsurance premiums that would have to be reversed in the event of a major storm. Is that entire balance reversible or is some of that applicable to prepaid reinsurance premiums from periods past that now accrue to the Company? Or can you kind of reconcile that for me a little bit?

Richard R. Allen

It’s all on multi-year treaties that depending on a severity with the storm and the layer that it would attach, that’s depending on how much will have to be rolled back.

Casey Alexander – Gilford Securities, Inc.

All right, okay. Hang on one second. Can you give me the – I know you're just getting started with the Flood Insurance Program, but how much of the gross written premium was applicable to Flood Insurance for the quarter?

Paresh Patel

That’s just negligible.

Casey Alexander – Gilford Securities, Inc.

Negligible. Okay. All right, I’ll step out and let some other questions come in. If I have some more questions I'll come back in.

Paresh Patel

Okay.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Dan Farrell of Sterne Agee. Please go ahead with your question.

Dan Farrell – Sterne, Agee & Leach, Inc.

Hi, good afternoon, everyone. A question on your cash position, which continues to grow. I was wondering if you could just talk about thoughts there and any plans to try and deploy anything. Obviously, I know you’re focused on preservation of capital first and the current interest rate environment might not cooperate. But I just wondered if you could talk to us around traditional investments and also the real estate portfolio. Thank you.

Paresh Patel

Well, then I’ll take the real estate portfolio first. The real estate portfolio, obviously, if and we find opportunities that meet our criteria, we invest in those things. And going forward I think it’s going to involve some degree of debt along with the equity and real estate. But having said that, in this yield-hungry environment opportunities are not as easy to come by as you would like them to be, but we are patient.

As far as the traditional side of the investment portfolio, we had stated almost a year ago when 10-year Treasuries seeped over 3% such that it could be a good time to start rolling out money and we started doing that. Unfortunately, as being surprised – it seems to have surprised most of the world, yield instead of going up has sort of come down.

And at that point we now resell that disciplined situation where the yield is too little. We just look at this and say it’s too risky to put money to work. So that’s preventing us from putting more money to work in the form of bonds and debt and that kind of stuff. And when we don’t put it to work the cash just builds up, because it’s a healthy company. Like I said, it’s just generating cash at a prodigious rate at this point.

Dan Farrell – Sterne, Agee & Leach, Inc.

Okay, great. Thanks. And then, just a question on the expense ratio side. There’s been some volatility there into the quarters and I think some of that also might be related to the timing of reinsurance purchase and when it comes through. Can you help us think about a level of both the acquisition ratio as it moves around a lot and then also other expense ratio? And then, just the $1.5 million of comp-related stock in the quarter, I just want to confirm is that sort of a run rate to be thinking about on a quarterly basis. Thank you.

Richard R. Allen

The compensation rate is going to be leveling off and probably decreasing slightly as the compensation related to the restricted stock is amortized.

Dan Farrell – Sterne, Agee & Leach, Inc.

Okay.

Richard R. Allen

The other question, there’s no real reinsurance costs floating through expenses. A little bit of brokerage fee income and everything, if I remember correctly, our GAAP reporting is netted against the – no, that does flow through the policy.

Dan Farrell – Sterne, Agee & Leach, Inc.

I think acquisition cost was the area that I was thinking might have some volatility there.

Richard R. Allen

There is a little bit of a reinsurance brokerage commission that flows through there and that all depends on the timing of the payments. Other than that the regular commission should be running about the same percentage on a consistent basis.

Dan Farrell – Sterne, Agee & Leach, Inc.

Okay. All right. Thank you very much, guys.

Paresh Patel

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Arash Soleimani with KBW. Please go ahead with your question.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Hi, thanks. So one question I had with – obviously, you said with the flood initiative. You expect that to take off more as the glide path of rate sort of plays out. In the meantime, is there any way to quantify what your organic growth is currently?

Paresh Patel

Arash, I would tell you our organic growth especially at this time of the year is negative. It has been negative for the last seven years. We have always run a slightly different model and different kind of insurance company in the sense, if you look back each of the last seven years, so I am putting it through all kinds of growth phase here, right.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Right.

Paresh Patel

You find the company is always bigger on December 31 than it is on January 1 of the year. But if you look month to months in between, the company tends to generally shrink from selected February through November and then grows rapidly in the last couple of months of the year and then repeat the cycle.

We are basically on track with that same cycle that we repeated for the past seven years and we are comfortable that we’re going to do the same kind of growth rate this year. So unlike most companies the fact I’m telling you that growth is negative for the second quarter and I would give you a headline that it’s a little negative for the third quarter is not unexpected.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Okay. I guess I’m trying to think of it maybe in a different way. So I know you said the growth is like a slump here. It’s not organic growth throughout the year. But in the past, for example, a lot of the growth has come from Citizens or HomeWise. If we assume that we’re in a world where the opportunities from Citizens are less than when they were 1.4 million policies instead of – looking forward to December, is that a place where organic growth will play more of a role than it has in the past? Or do you think it’s going to be more still maybe a take-out-type-driven growth or an opportunistic-type-acquisition growth? I guess I’m trying to see is organic more of a factor now than it has been in the past, is I guess a simple way of asking it.

Paresh Patel

The simple answer to that is organic will play a part – or actually funding up has always played the part. Now the problem that happens with organic growth is anytime you get an acquisition like HomeWise or you do a takeout, those numbers dwarf any organic growth because just by the sheer lumpiness and size of it, right. So, absent if we don’t do a takeout, if we don’t buy anybody if we just do nothing, but just write voluntary policies organic growth will be meaningful in the fourth quarter. But if we do any of the other stuff, it will quickly dwarf a new organic number very, very quickly, just how unfortunately numbers play out, yes?

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

That makes sense. And what is it, the organic growth that you said you would have in the fourth quarter that would be meaningful if there were no takeouts or anything?

Paresh Patel

That’s probably 300, 400 for policies a week.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Okay. And is that driven – I mean, do you expect Proplet to play a role in that yet at this point? Or do you think that’s still more kind of like a further out type of thing?

Paresh Patel

No, I think it will play a role and that’s part of the whole idea. One other thing about the difference between growth and how we see growth versus how everybody else sees growth, everybody thinks to see growth as the only way of growing earnings. We have managed to do this without necessarily growing.

I’m not saying growth in bad, but I’m saying that’s not the be-all and end-all as far as we are concerned. And part of what we are blessed with and constrained with at the same time is that we have an existing book that is already performing very well. So it’s just grow the top line or to grow policy count, and cause a detrimental to that well-performing book, doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Sure.

Richard R. Allen

So, therefore, we are lot more cautious about growth than some of our other brethren would be. I mean to give you an idea, I think, I just look to the second quarter numbers. I think we were accepting about 6% of the policies we were quoting, right. A lot of guys have much higher numbers and looking to increase it even further. Our growth number is that low not because we’re not getting the quotes, but we’re becoming much more discriminating in terms of which policies we take.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Right. That would make sense.

Richard R. Allen

Yes. So, if you wanted to really show top line growth instead of taking 6% acceptance we could say rack it up to 50%. It really would show nice monthly growth plus, but it will lead to the results everybody is expecting.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Yes, that’s true. And then, in terms of ceded premiums, so given that reinsurance was obviously cheaper this year than last year, should we interpret that as the ceded ratio should decline starting in the third quarter, since you’re paying less for the coverage?

Richard R. Allen

I think that’s a valid statement, basically we’re going to be amortizing $108 million compared to $113 million. And the track we’re on our net – our gross earn premium is continuing to increase.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Right.

Richard R. Allen

At a percentage it should.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

And then I know there were a couple numbers questions that you were looking up. I just wanted to know if I could add a couple more to those. One was, do you know the duration of the fixed income portfolio as of 2Q?

Paresh Patel

I said no but I think it’s be in spite of the queue, which should filed…

Richard R. Allen

Which we will file tomorrow.

Richard R. Allen

Yes.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Okay. And what about prior-period reserve development?

Paresh Patel

It’s not been very favorable and again that’s identified in Q2.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Okay, that’s fair. And my very last question is, what are you seeing in 2014 in terms of the rate environment for homeowners in terms of the rate filings that you're looking to put through this year?

Paresh Patel

I think it’s the same item that we’ve stated since the beginning of the year, that’s the rate environment is softening and I think people are looking at mid-single digit decreases at a minimum.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Okay sales guidance you predict it to be 5% down?

Paresh Patel

Yes.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Okay. So basically the point is that even if rates are 5% down, the improvement in reinsurance pricings are more than offset.

Richard R. Allen

That’s a tough one to answer.

Paresh Patel

Yes of course our – simple basis we’d end up a month 13% to 108%. If you are a $360 million company, you’re knocked by for send off, that already happens in the same fashion right.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

All right.

Paresh Patel

Because you have to roll through the rate filing, and roll through for booking everything else. But 5% of $360 million is $18.05 million, yes.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Right.

Paresh Patel

But it would take several months to roll this, and there’s a lots of other factors to Richard’s point about why it’s difficult to answer, yes.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Sure. All right. Thank you for the answers.

Paresh Patel

Rich, you want to give the math? Just give the math.

Richard R. Allen

Yes. Gross written premium for the quarter were $140.9 million, compared to 2013 of $132.4 million. For the six months the gross was $219.8 million, compared to $201.6 million. If you need any other information give us a call and we’ll be glad to give the answer to you.

Arash S. Soleimani – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Matt Carletti of JMP. Please go ahead with your questions.

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

Thanks for those numbers, Richard. A couple other numbers questions, share count related. Do you have the weighted number for the quarter and then what it stood at quarter end, diluted share count?

Richard R. Allen

Yes I do, you mean. I got it here, it’s in the queue if you could…

Paresh Patel

Have any other question?

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

Is the queue out already? If it’s I’ll go get it…

Richard R. Allen

(indiscernible) okay.

Paresh Patel

Any other questions?

Matthew J. Carletti – JMP Securities LLC

Thank you.

Operator

There are no additional questions at this time. I will now turn the floor back to Kevin Mitchell for closing comments.

Kevin Mitchell

On behalf of the entire management team I would like to express appreciation for the continued support we received from our shareholders, employees, agents and most importantly, our policy holders. We look forward to the continued success during the remainder of 2014.

Thank you everyone. Look forward to next quarter.

Operator

This concludes the teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time. Thank you for your participation.

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