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Executives

W. Marston Becker - Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer

Joseph W. Roberts - Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President

N. James Tees - Executive Vice President, Finance & Investments of MCS

Analysts

Joshua Shanker – Citigroup

Charles Hamilton – FTN Midwest

Scott Thomas – Morgan Stanley

Roland [Py] – Banc of America Securities

Cy Jacobs – Jacobs Asset Management

Max Capital Group, Ltd. (MXGL) Q1 2008 Earnings Call May 6, 2008 10:00 AM ET

Operator

Good day ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the first quarter 2008 Max Capital Group Ltd. earnings conference call. My name is Stacy and I will be your moderator for today. At this time all participants are in a listen only mode. We will be facilitating a question-and-answer session towards the end of the conference. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder this conference is being recorded for replay purposes.

The company reminds you that forward-looking statements that may be made in this call are intended to be covered by the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements are not statements of historical fact but rather reflect the company’s current expectations, estimates and predictions about future results and events and are subject to risks and uncertainties and assumptions including risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are enumerated in the company’s most recent Form 10-K and other documents filed with the SEC. If one or more risks or uncertainties materialize or if the company's underlying assumptions prove to be incorrect actual results may differ materially from the what the company projects. The company undertakes on obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

I would now like to turn the presentation over to your host for today, Mr. Marty Becker, CEO.

W. Marston Becker

Good morning to each of you and welcome to Max Capital’s first quarter 2008 earnings call. Max had a very good first quarter from an underlying and operational perspective as each of our business units remained on target with their annual plans and we were fortunate not to incur any unusual loss activity. As we did pre-announce on April 18th however our first quarter financial results were negatively impacted by the mark-to-market when our alternative investment portfolio which was -2.11% versus our target of +2.0%. While historically about one out of every five quarters has proven to be negative in this portfolio the annualized average results have been quite good, specifically a +9.31% over the past 12 months and a +9.14% over the past five years.

Reflecting that strong performance we have consistently outperformed the HFRI fund-to-funds index and even with the mark down we took on our mark-to-market this quarter we once again outperformed this index. We do appreciate of course that the impact of the mark-to-market versus target on our alternatives each quarter down or up is amplified in our reported earnings as it is accounted for in operating earnings and therefore generates meaningful variances to quarterly analyst target earnings. But even with the first quarter volatility the standard deviation of this portfolio remains quite attractive. The portfolio has been a consistently positive contributor to the growth in our book value per share and we expect it to continue to be so in the future.

In our underwriting operations our Bermuda and Dublin platforms for insurance and reinsurance had good first quarters. Renewal rates remain under pressure. On business that we renewed we averaged premium reductions in most lines of between 5% and 10%. There was some business we chose not to renew and rates continue to be much more aggressive on insurance versus reinsurance. Our reinsurance group benefited from the addition last year of our agricultural underwriters in Dublin. This is typically first quarter business and is one of the few areas of the industry that has natural premium growth at the present time with the significant price increases at agricultural commodity prices.

Additionally our medical malpractice and professional liability teams have been successful in several new programs. Property [cap] business remained reasonably attractive on January 1st but it does have rate pressure and we expect declines of up to 10% year-over-year on upcoming renewals although our May 1 deals were relatively flat. Our insurance book in first quarter 08 was slightly smaller than in the same quarter last year. Renewal retention has been good so while the marketplace is competitive the larger more complicated risks that Max has tended to write still seems to appreciate consistency in underwriting. That said the business we have lost has had extraordinary price reductions of 25% to 30% or more and we just could not compete. We remain willing to shrink those classes where we do not feel we can make an economic return as there will be another day. We are fortunate in our property book to have not been on many of the larger industry losses this quarter. Some of these we had been on previously but had left the accounts as prices had been reduced on recent renewals.

In our aviation book as you have probably read in some of the industry periodicals rates appear to have found the bottom on the airlines and the optimists would say there may be some pick up in rates later this year. Aerospace business still has some reductions and general aviation is about flat. Our book today is about a third each between airlines, aerospace and general aviation. Our general aviation business is primarily business jets.

Max Specialty our US based operation had a very good quarter and remains on plan to meet its 2008 target of approximately $150 million of gross written premium. We have begun to see contribution from both the inland marine and ocean cargo teams we brought on last fall and from the specialty casualty group that joined late in 2007 through our Max Managers NGA. This combined with the original Max Specialty team is starting to nicely diversify our premium writings. April was another good month for us so in mid-second quarter we continue to appear on track with our annual forecast. While business we write in Bermuda and Dublin is much smaller in the Max Specialty book of business in average account size it too has numerous competitors. It is a tough marketplace and our ability to generate business flow is a direct result of the strong relationships of our underwriters combined with significant effort. While we’re still in the early innings loss trends to date have been encouraging and we will continue to cautiously and selectively work our way into this market. Our underwriter reward structure remains oriented to underwriting results and not premium production so we will only grow as fast as the market allows.

We announced in late February an agreement to purchase a 50 state admitted shell. We anticipate closing this transaction during the current quarter and the submitted paper will be very useful for our marine team. Additionally we are in renewed dialog with California and Colorado as we complete our first year of business and are hopeful we will receive approvals for our E&S license in these states by mid-year 2008. We did not have any life transactions in the first quarter. This is not unusual as we saw last year that it tends to be a mainly second half of the year business. There is a respectable pipeline of transactions so we are hopeful we will meet our 2008 target. In our segment results you might note the life operations are the segment most impacted by the alternative investment branches as approximately 40% of the life business’ longer term invested assets are allocated to alternatives.

As I mentioned in my initial comments our first quarter was a very good operational for Max as we continue to build our various platforms. While our alternative investment returns for the quarter were below target our alternatives have had down quarters before but as I indicated their historical performance overall has been quite good.

I’d now like to ask Joe Roberts, our CFO and Jim Tees, our EVP of Finance and Investments to provide some additional detail on our financials.

Joseph W. Roberts

Good morning everyone. Max Capital’s story for the three months ended 3/31/2008 has two main themes. First, our solid underwriting performance in spite of an increasingly challenging business environment and second the lower than planned performance of our alternative investment portfolio which we previously indicated in an earnings pre-announcement release on April 18th. Our net operating income for the quarter was $6.3 million or $0.11 per diluted share versus net operating income of $81 million or $1.26 per diluted share for the same period in 2007. The principal variance in income from our first quarter 2007 results was an alternative investment return which as we previously reported was -2.11% for the quarter.

In today’s press release for the first time we’ve included our fully diluted book value per share at first quarter end as well as the comparable figure on December 31, 2007. Fully diluted book value per share is computed using the Treasury Stock method which includes new share potentially created by unexercised in the money warrants and options. This method assumes that the proceeds received from the in the money warrant and option exercises are used to repurchase common shares in the market. On that basis fully diluted book value per share declined from $25.59 at December 31, 2007 to $25.50 at March 31, 2008. This $0.09 decline is principally due to warrant exercises and share repurchases during the first quarter at average prices higher than book value partially offset by the lower impactive dilutive securities arising from our lower share price at March 31, 2008 compared to our share price at December 31, 2007.

Our overall net earned premiums for our mature insurance and reinsurance segments were largely in line with our planned numbers for 2008 which reflected our expectations of softening market conditions. We also anticipated an increase in contribution in net earned premiums from our US specialty segment and those increasing US derived net earned premiums are in fact helping to cover a larger share of the general and administrative expenses of this segment. Our net income includes approximately $8 million from loss reserve releases and adjustments which when coupled with the negative return of 2.11% on our alternative investment portfolio were the main variances from our plan in the first quarter.

Turning to our individual business segments gross premiums written in the quarter by our property and casualty reinsurance segment were up 51% over the same period in 2007 principally reflecting $85 million in agricultural reinsurance gross premiums written for the first time. As you may recall we hired a seasoned agricultural professional in the fourth quarter of 2007 and he has been quite successful in developing this new product line. Agricultural reinsurance premiums may vary significantly from planned levels and from year to year due to variations in the level of business ceded by the client because of the underlying demand and related crop pricing. Also please keep in mind that this business is normally written during the first quarter of each year so we expect less agricultural related premium volume for the remainder of 2008. Premium activity for our other reinsurance products is broadly in line with our planning expectations.

We purchased additional reinsurance protection in the quarter versus the prior year period. This increase reflected our first time purchase of protection on our agricultural business and additional protection on our medical malpractice business caused by increased assumed premiums. Acquisition costs were lower this period compared to 2007 as a result of the change in premium mix and a benefit due to actual costs that turned out to be lower than estimated costs on some of our quarter share contracts.

Losses incurred for the three months ended March 31, 2008 were partially offset by approximately $6 million of positive development in prior period reserves. This benefit contributed seven percentage points to both the loss and combined ratios for the property and casualty reinsurance segment for the first quarter of 2008. Absent the reserve release our loss ratio for the quarter was higher in the same period in 2007 largely reflecting a declining pricing environment.

Turning now to our insurance segment our gross premiums written in that segment declined 6% in the first quarter of 2008 versus the same period in 2007. The decline was principally related to our excess liability business were we declined to renew some business in the quarter when prices and conditions did not meet our underwriting criteria. The coverage on our reinsurance program in 2008 for our insurance segment is largely consistent with the reinsurance program purchased in 2007. Losses incurred for the three months ended March 31, 2008 benefited by approximately $1.6 million from positive development on prior period reserves. This benefit contributed four percentage points to both the loss and combined ratios for the property and casualty insurance segment for the quarter. Absent the reserve release our loss ratio for the first quarter of 2008 was higher than the same period in 2007 also largely reflecting the decline in pricing environment.

Our US specialty segment contributed gross premiums of $29 million to our first quarter results in line with their expectations for the period. There were no premiums for the corresponding period in 2007 and this segment commenced underwriting operations in the second quarter of 2007. As we’ve indicated previously on calls we continue to purchase significant reinsurance on this segment to protect from large loss events prior to developing the business fully. Once again reinsurance program being purchased in 2008 for our US specialty segment mirrors that purchase in 2007. The increased level of net premiums earned for the quarter helped reduce the loss in this segment as we grow into our expense ratio.

We bought no new life and annuity business during the first quarter of 2008. The increase in benefit expense for the quarter versus the same period in 2007 reflects the new life and annuity business written during the second half of 2007 as well as increased benefit expense related to foreign exchange movements. Offsetting the increased benefit expense due to foreign exchange movements is additional investment income on the underlying assets that are retained in the same currency as the liabilities to manage our foreign exchange risk. Our negative alternative investment performance and the significant allocation to the life and annuity business has led to this segment showing a net loss for the quarter.

Cash provided by operating activities in the quarter were a strong $90 million compared to $67 million for the same period of 2007 largely reflecting the additional gross premiums written in the period. Increased operating cash flows and invested assets contributed to a 16% net increase in net investment income in the period. Joe Tees will provide more color on our alternative investment returns for the period in just a moment.

The increase in interest expense in 2008 is principally attributable to interest in Max USA’s $100 million senior notes issued in April 2007, our $50 million draw down on our primary credit facility in April 2007, both of which were used to capitalize our US based excess and surplus operations. In addition the crediting rates on funds we hold from reinsures was higher in the first quarter of 2008 than in the same period of 2007. total general and administrative expenses were $25 million for the quarter slightly lower than for the comparable 2007 period. The decrease relates to lower incentive compensation costs partially offset by increased general and administrative expenses for our US specialty operations related to additional hires.

Let me turn to Jim Tees now for further discussion of our alternative investments and other balance sheet items.

N. James Tees

Good morning everybody. Total invested assets amounted to $5.2 billion at March 31, 2008 representing a ratio of invested assets to shareholders equity of a strong 3.4 to 1. At March 31, 2008 $4.2 billion or 80.6% of our investable assets consisted of cash and high grade fixed maturity securities that have a weighted average credit rating quality of AA+ was more than 98% of our fixed maturities rated A or higher. With respect to sub-prime and also A exposed mortgage related securities we had $87 million at fair value at March 31, 2008 with $82 million currently rated AAA and $5 million currently rated AA and collectively having a weighted average life of 2.3 years. These securities represent approximately 2.1% of our cash and fixed maturities portfolio. We continue to believe that we will not incur any loss in principal from these securities.

Net investment income was $50 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2008 versus $43 million for the same period in 2007 an increase of 16%. Over the past 12 months our cash and fixed maturities portfolio has increased $600 million principally reflecting the proceeds of redemptions from our alternative investment portfolio and cash generated from operations. The return on our fixed maturities portfolio was 1.41% for the three months ended March 31, 2008. This strong bond portfolio performance has more than offset the weak performance in our alternative investment portfolio and has resulted in a first quarter 2008 return of 61 basis points for the overall investment portfolio.

Alternative investments were $1 billion or 19.4% of our invested assets at March 31, 2008. On April 19th, 2008 we pre-announced the first quarter 2008 results of our alternative investments which was a negative return of 2.11% versus our budget plan assumption of +2.0%. The company’s alternative investment for the quarter compares favorably to the negative return of 4.27% over the same period for the HRFI fund-to-funds index which we believe is the most comparable benchmark for this asset class. As I think many of you know Max’s accounting policy is to record the unrealized mark-to-market gains or losses emanating from our alternative investment portfolio through operating income rather than as an adjustment to book value through accumulated other comprehensive income. The mark-to-market loss recorded in the first quarter was one of the larger items impacting net income. Comparatively for the same three months in 2007 our alternative investment portfolio returned a positive 4.75% and also significantly outperformed the HFRI fund-to-funds index return of 3.16%.

If you look back you will find that we have a pretty good track record of beating our relevant benchmark. Despite the relative performance it was still a tough quarter for our alternative investment portfolio. Over the past 60 months our alternative investment portfolio has produced a 9.14% compound annual return. Our fund of hedge funds only performance during the same 60 month period produced a 9.88% compound annual return. Over the past 12 months our fund of hedge funds only return has been 9.08%. Certain underlying funds in our alternative investment portfolio have traded sub-prime securities both long and short positions with the overall portfolio being in the net short position at March 31, 2008.

I will conclude my comments about our alternative investments performance by noting that not all of our underlying funds have reported as of yet April results but based on those that have reported so far it looks as though we will be net positive for the month of April.

Turning to reserves our property and casualty loss reserves were $2.4 billion at March 31, 2008 up $100 million from $2.3 billion at December 31, 2007 with approximately 73% of these reserves being IB&R reserves. Our life and annuity benefits reserves were $1.3 billion at March 31, 2008 and it increased modestly since December 31, 2007.

The last of my prepared remarks cover capital management. Shareholders equity at March 31, 2008 was $1.5 billion or $25.50 per fully diluted share versus $1.6 billion or $25.59 per fully diluted share at December 31, 2007. Following on from our 2007 when we repurchased more than 7% of beginning of year 2007 shares outstanding we continued repurchasing our shares during the first quarter of 2008 returning $94 million of capital to our shareholders. We purchased approximately 3.3 million shares outstanding during the three months ended March 31, 2008 or approximately 5.8% of shares outstanding as of the beginning of the year of 2008. Today we have $85 million of repurchase authorization from our Board. Stock price is currently trading below diluted book value and our underwriting business facing price pressure we believe that the share repurchasing is an attractive use of our excess capital.

Finally we have declared a dividend of $0.09 per share which is payable on May 30th, 2008 to shareholders of record as of May 16, 2008.

I’ll turn the call back to Marty.

W. Marston Becker

To conclude our formal remarks today while Max’s underwriting operations performed very well in the first quarter Max like our competitors is operating in the down slope of the pricing cycle which makes this a competitive and challenging business environment. In times like these Max’s diversification serves us and our investors quite well. The key to success in this environment is to maintain our underwriting discipline and ensure that each piece of business follows our pricing models and underwriting guidelines.

That’s easy enough to say but it’s also our Max leadership team is working hard at day in and day out. A few of you have touched base recently and asked if we plan to revise our earnings guidance for the year. First of all we typically only do guidance annually. At the moment however I will say that everything is on plan except for this quarter’s return on the alternatives. We have no unique insight as to what the alternative portfolio’s results will likely be for the year. That should become clear over the next couple of quarters as to how close it will mirror our annual targeted return of 8%.

We would now be pleased to open up the call for questions.

Question-And-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Josh Shanker – Citi.

Joshua Shanker – Citigroup

I’m trying to figure out whether or not the allocations for the alternative investment portfolio need to change according to what market conditions are. Are all allocations correct the way you’ve designed it for all market scenarios or should there be some active management not in terms of the bottom up analysis of the funds, but in terms of your top down allocations?

W. Marston Becker

The allocation really relates to the duration of the liabilities composed in that segment so the cycle changes aren’t really going to change the likely duration of those liabilities. In rough terms it’s approximately 40% of reserves in the life segment, about 20% of casualty reserves and whatever segment they’re involved in and about 10% of shorter tail reserves. Those are crude indicators of how the alternatives are spread across our various underwriting business segments.

Joshua Shanker – Citigroup

How much additional capital do you think you have beyond what you need that you could contribute to share repurchase by the end of the year?

W. Marston Becker

It depends on how much business we write, Josh.

Joshua Shanker – Citigroup

Do you have a plan right now in place or are you really waiting and seeing business generation before you determine what that is?

W. Marston Becker

Max has been a pretty consistent repurchaser or shares for several quarters. Certainly we were a larger purchaser than normal in the first quarter because of those warrant redemptions on top of the ASR plan that we had put in place at the end of last year. You’ll see us continue to be a repurchaser as the year unfolds.

Joshua Shanker – Citigroup

Do you think that the fourth quarter will be heavier because you then have an understanding about what your volumes are or do you think it will be consistent throughout the next three quarters?

W. Marston Becker

In all likelihood the second quarter will be less than the first and as we get a better picture on the year from both an investment standpoint as well as a catastrophe standpoint we’ll see what we can do.

Operator

Your next question comes from Chuck Hamilton – FTN Midwest.

Charles Hamilton – FTN Midwest

Question for you on the crop insurance program, the $85 million of gross written in the first quarter. I noted that if we strip that out we end up with about a 12% reduction year-over-year for the book excluding the crop insurance which I think is, we’re hearing 15% for most reinsurance programs now. Can you provide a little more color on the crop insurance program, either the geography or the perils covered in the concentration of risk, those kinds of things?

W. Marston Becker

There is a handful of accounts in there. Crop insurance by its nature on a reinsurance basis is pretty lumpy, they’re pretty large individual contracts. All of our program is North American, most of it’s multi-peril so it is I guess somewhat main street in the crop insurance world.

Charles Hamilton – FTN Midwest

The second question comes back to the life and annuity book, I think this quarter we did see a higher run rate of losses than we’ve seen historically. Can you strip out the impact of FX versus the higher cost generated from the second half of 07 book of business?

Joseph W. Roberts

I don’t have that on hand, Chuck, but I can give you the following. If you look at last year’s costs, and we added approximately $300 million in business last year, if you would say that’s approximately 20%, 25% of new business, I think our benefit costs last year were somewhere in the region of $44 million, $43 million, $44 million excluding the new transactions and I think you’ll find that that would run at a run rate now with the new business coming in on the fourth quarter, this is the first quarter you’d have seen that effect. What I can tell you though on the benefit expense if it only affects the payments that we’re making on those liabilities so we’re not making significant payments each quarter so the phonic change component would not be huge. I wouldn’t say it was much more than $500,000. And offsetting that obviously is we have those underlying assets in the original currency so we’re making that on the,

Charles Hamilton – FTN Midwest

[Inaudible] investment side?

Joseph W. Roberts

Right, that’s correct.

W. Marston Becker

I think, Chuck, the macro comment is the life business underwriting is performing as expected. There has been on unusual events, no unusual trends or deterioration. The major variance this quarter is just the impact of the allocation of the alternatives.

Charles Hamilton – FTN Midwest

Maybe the better way to look at is the duration of those liabilities, of the life annuity, because what you’re doing is expensing as they come through. Is that a correct statement?

Joseph W. Roberts

That’s correct. What you’re effectively doing is the life liabilities are recorded on a present value basis, then you unwind those over the duration of the program and then also you’re truing up any differences between expected cash payments and actual cash payments.

Operator

Your next question comes from Scott Thomas – Morgan Stanley.

Scott Thomas – Morgan Stanley

I was just hoping you could going back to the crop insurance, if you could add some more detail to the premium and loss exposure. You had mentioned earlier that it’s typically written during the first quarter. Is that 75% of the business? And then also what are the losses, when do those usually come through? I assume it’s very short tail?

W. Marston Becker

The crop business is largely first quarter business. I would say it’s more than 75% on a reinsurance basis first quarter business. While you make the underwriting decision in the first quarter typically there’s a second quarter premium true up as you see what crops actually are planted in the field because when it’s bound in the first quarter it’s based on estimated plantings as opposed to what the actual plantings are. Losses then develop over the summer and the early fall to the extent there’s going to be losses and by the end of the year you pretty well know your end result on the crop business. It’s much like your property insurance business.

Scott Thomas – Morgan Stanley

As far as the losses, are the assessments objective? Is it some sort of quantity times price fashion or is it objective or would you say it’s more subjective with the claims person negotiating the settlement?

W. Marston Becker

Virtually all these programs participate in the Federal Crop Insurance program so there’s a very consistent loss adjustment methodology applied over the industry sector and our underlying primary writers are all participating in the Federal program.

Operator

Your next question comes from Roland Py – Banc of America Securities.

Roland Py – Banc of America Securities

The first question, the yield on the fixed income investment portfolio declined slightly on a sequential basis. Was there any strategic reallocation there or is it just a function of the declining yields?

N. James Tees

Mostly it’s a function of declining yields. Nothing specific. We are ratio matched so we have guidelines, we have to state the ratio match to our liability portfolio. But our book yield is approximately $4.67% for the quarter.

Roland Py – Banc of America Securities

Were there any negative mark-to-markets on the ABS or NBS portfolio in your fixed income investments?

N. James Tees

Obviously we did mark-to-market, it’s captured through accumulated other comprehensive income. The portfolio in general, we had a credit spread widening during the quarter, we had Treasuries falling in the quarter. It was about a $15 million mark-to-market positive net for the portfolio for the quarter and obviously the introduction of Level 1, 2, 3 pricing under FAS 157, we had no, other than normal mark-to-market, we did not have any OTTI issues.

Roland Py – Banc of America Securities

Jim, are you able to say what the Level 3 assets were?

N. James Tees

We’re actually going to disclose it in the Q. I don’t have it with me at the moment, but I’ll certainly get that to you.

W. Marston Becker

Do you want to tell them when the Q is going to closed?

Joseph W. Roberts

Just to clarify there, we’d expect to file our 10-Q tomorrow which will be Wednesday, the 7th and we do obviously have the analysis of the 157 information in there. I don’t have the number to hand, I do know the portion in Level 3 is small relative to our entire portfolio.

Operator

Your final question comes from Cy Jacobs – Jacobs Asset Management.

Cy Jacobs – Jacobs Asset Management

We’re nearly a week into May and all indications are that April was a very good month in the alternative world. Do you have a sense of how the portfolio did versus fund-to-fund index?

N. James Tees

As I mentioned in my prepared remarks, it’s really early days. We have about 35 funds. Based on those that reported so far, it looks like we’ll be net positive for the month but it is very early days and we still have a number of funds that have to report.

Cy Jacobs – Jacobs Asset Management

Net positive on an absolute basis or relative to the index? Because the index apparently is going to be very strong.

N. James Tees

We don’t know what the index is yet. All we can tell you is the information we have thus far is our funds look like they’re going to be positive.

Operator

With no further questions in the queue, I’d like to turn the call back over to management for closing remarks.

W. Marston Becker

Thank you very much. Once again we appreciate you all taking your time and participating with us on the call. As always, Jim and Joe and myself are available for specific questions or clarifications you might need. We are quite pleased with the way the year has started off from an underwriting standpoint and we’re hopeful that the alternative results will catch up as we progress through the final three quarters. We thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you for your participation in today’s conference. This does conclude your presentation. You may now disconnect. Good day.

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