Loews: Counting on CNA Earnings

Includes: BWP, CNA, L
by: Dan Braem

Loews (NYSE:L) is the closest company I can find to Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A). I base this comparison on the following:

  1. Both are conglomerates
  2. Both companies take advantage of float
  3. Both companies have well respected managers that look for value opportunities
  4. Beyond insurance, both companies are in the gas pipeline business

Loews is a company that basically owns: 90% of CNA Insurance (NYSE:CNA), 50% of Diamond Offshore, 70% of Boardwalk Pipeline (NYSE:BWP), 100% of Highmount Energy and 100% of Loews Hotels.

Well, Diamond Offshore and Boardwalk Pipeline have already reported, so we already know what those segments will look like. We also now that Highmount Energy and the hotel business will be bad.

In my opinion, the true make or break operations for this conglomerate will be CNA. For the first quarter, my guess is that the insurance operations do well, with a combined ratio in the 95% neighborhood. Hopefully, the first quarter also reveals a turn in the investment performance. I am sure investment income will be down from the prior year (as interest rates are lower), but let's hope the investment writedowns turn positive.

If CNA holds up, I think Loews will go up. With another disappointing quarter from CNA, Loews will go down.

Overall, I am suggesting that the entire 1st quarter for Loews will be contingent on CNA. I am hoping for income of around 100 million for CNA. Let's see!