Alterra Capital Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ:ALTE) Q2 2010 Earnings Call August 4, 2010 10:00 AM ET
Susan Spivak Bernstein - SVP, IR
Joe Roberts - CFO
Marty Becker - President and CEO
Good day ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the second quarter 2010 Alterra Capital Holdings Limited earnings conference call. My name is Shimika, and I will be your operator for today. At this time all participants are in listen-only mode. We will conduct a question-and-answer session towards the end of today's conference. (Operator Instructions)
I would now like to turn the presentation over to your host for today's call, Ms. Susan Spivak Bernstein, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations. Please proceed.
Susan Spivak Bernstein
Thank you. Good morning and welcome to Alterra's second quarter 2010 earnings conference call. Last night we issued our press release and financial supplement which are both available on our website www.alterracap.com.
Joining us for today's call will be Marty Becker, President and Chief Executive Officer and Joe Roberts, Chief Financial Officer. Following the prepared remarks we will open it up to Q&A.
Before proceeding with the discussion, Alterra reminds you that this call may include forward-looking statements that reflect its current views with respective future events and financial performance. Statements that include words expect, intend, plan, believe, project, anticipate, will, may and similar statements of a future or forward-looking nature identify forward-looking statements.
All forward-looking statements address matters that involve risks and uncertainties. Accordingly there are/or will be important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in such statements and you should not place undue reliance on any such statements. Any forward-looking-statements made in this call are qualified by these cautionary statements and there can be no assurance that the actual results or developments anticipated Alterra will be realized or even if substantially realized that they will have the expected consequences or effect on Alterra or businesses or operations. Alterra undertakes no obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise.
And with that I am happy to turn the call over to Marty.
Thank you very much Susan and good morning to everyone and welcome to our first earnings call Alterra. As you recall our company was formed in May by the merger of Max Capital and Harbor Point.
For the second quarter of 2010 Alterra reported net operating income of $58.8 million or $0.64 per diluted share compared to net operating income of $47.8 million or $0.83 per diluted share in the Max Solar enterprise last year.
Fully diluted book value per share was $24.55 after declaration of a $305 million special dividend following the close of the merger transaction and paid in June. Financial results this quarter only partially reflect the future earnings power of combining both operations as Harbor Point's results are for accounting purposes only included post the merger date of May 12.
However we have already begun to enjoy the benefits of the merger as evidenced by the increase on the contribution of the reinsurance segment to our business mix. On a reported basis our overall property and casualty gross premiums grew 12% in the second quarter to $398 million.
Growth was principally driven by the inclusion of Harbor Point in our reinsurance line. We did have some growth from the continued build out of our Alterra at Lloyd's and Alterra Specialty businesses.
Our insurance segment produced lower premium in 2010 than in 2009 reflecting continued competitive market conditions. Our casualty premium was stable for the quarter and declined in the high single digits for the year-to-date. Overall we remain pleased with our high renewal retentions in the mid 80s which demonstrate our strong client relationships and niche focus in some of the tougher underwriting classes of business.
Average pricing on that renewed business is down less than 5%. When we do forego existing business it is because the pricing is down significantly, often in excess of 25%. In our other insurance businesses professional lines rates on average are down approximately 7% year-to-date, property lines are down more with pricing reductions closer to 10% to 15% and aviation rates still remain up approximately 6% but if you recall pretty low levels.
We believe we have been very effective in protecting our underwriting margins even as the top line has declined. All four of our property and casualty underwriting segments produce favorable underwriting results with second quarter combined ratios of 83% on a calendar year basis and just under 92% excluding any reserve releases.
Market conditions are challenging globally. Our strategy to navigate the soft market or this portion of the cycle has not changed. We intend to maintain our volume in lines of business where we believe we can earn a reasonable return, work hard to search out profitable accounts and scale back in areas with inadequate pricing.
Updating you on our combined property cat risks exposure post the amalgamation, following the July 1 renewal, our 1 in 250 PML is approximately 18% of capital with our 1 in 100 year exposure at approximately 12% of capital.
We have not written any new Life business this year. Our life and annuity business has exclusively focused on acquiring blocks of policies with significant reserve balances, allowing us to earn a profit by investing at a higher yield than the cost of funds implicit in those reserves. Underwriting volatility on this business has always been quite low.
We have done that successfully for many years but with our portfolio strategy now primarily focused on investing new premiums in hard quality fixed income securities, it is difficult to obtain spreads in the present environment that resolve in prosper life and annuity business.
We have not recently identified it. Any meaningful opportunities to write new blocks of business where we can earn a reasonable investment spread. Therefore, we have decided not to actively pursue further life in annuity production at this term. This does not affect our management or the profitability of the existing book of business because you will recall, at the time we write/like business, we largely lock in the economics from both the yield and a duration stand point at that time. We will of course continue to service our existing life and annuity customer base.
During the quarter, two significant events followed on from our merger. First Alterra received the financial strength rating of "A Excellent" from A.M. Best Company. Second, Alterra made a special dividend distribution to all shareholders of 250 per common share, representing just under 10% of shareholder's equity. In our view, each of these events underscores Alterra's strong capital position as well as our ongoing commitment to stay on capital management principles.
Post the combination we have resumed our normal share repurchase program. Despite the currently lackluster market environment, we remain very excited about the highly capable and dynamic global underwriting platform, we have jointly built at Alterra. The integration process has gone very well, requiring changes in only one of our four business platforms, that's our reinsurance segment and that segment combination has gone extremely well.
By bringing together two strong and complementary organizations, each with well-developed and profitable operations, we have much greater capacity for value creation over time. Let me now turn it over to Joe Roberts, our CFO to discuss our business segments in greater detail. Joe?
Thank you Marty and good morning everyone. To assist you in your modeling of our financial statements and in making more meaningful comparisons to prior period results, we've included in our financial supplement, a set of pro forma financials broken out on a quarterly basis though the merger had been completed on January 1, 2009. As a reminder, these are unaudited pro forma financials that are being provided for informational purposes only.
Alterra's overall gross premiums written from property and causality operations in the second quarter increased 12% to $398 million. As Marty indicated, this growth primarily reflects the inclusion of Harbor Point premium as well as growth from new underwriting teams at our Lloyd's and our US specialty platforms.
Our underwriting results remain solid across the organization with the second quarter 2010 combined ratio of 83.3%. Favorable reserve development in the second quarter was $24.1 million, reducing the combined ratio by 8.3 points. Property catastrophe in significant per risk losses were $20.3 million, mostly from the Deepwater Horizon event which includes liability related losses and from Midwestern US storm.
The inclusion of the Harbor Point company results from May 12 have reduced our accident year ratio as there were few significant property catastrophe last event during that period, resulting in a very favorable loss ratio on those earnings. We continue to set conservative loss picks. We have not had to strength our casualty insurance loss reserves as some others have done this quarter because we believe we set those reserves on an appropriate level.
I will now run through the second quarter highlights for each of our segments. Second quarter growth premiums written for our insurance segment declined modestly to $132 million, from $134 million in 2009. In a tough underwriting environment, we remain pleased with our strong renewal retention and positive development of prior year reserves.
The combined ratio for our insurance operations was a favorable 76.9% in the second quarter compared to 84.1% in 2009. Favorable development of prior year reserves reduced the combined ratio by 16.7 points for the second quarter and was primarily related to property lines.
Our reinsurance results include approximately 45 days of combined operations following the merger. Reported gross premiums written for the quarter were $119.6 million, up from $95 million in 2009. The increase is principally in the property and professional line.
On a pro forma basis, assuming the merger had been closed for the entire second quarter, premiums would have declined approximately 25% to $197 million from $263 million in the second quarter last year. It is increasingly difficult to find attractive opportunities and we continue to pull back the rates are the softest. The large declines in our portfolio are in medical malpractice and workers compensation lines due to reduced line sizes and increases in client retentions.
Nonetheless, we have maintained favorable levels of profitability with the second quarter pro forma combined ratio of 88.3%. On a reported basis favorable development on prior year reserves reduced the combined ratio by 7.4 points for the second quarter. Favorable development was primarily in the property and workers compensation lines.
Combined ratio results on a reported basis were based on our pro forma basis because of the timing of loss events. Most of the large [loss events] including Deepwater Horizon occurred before the merger closed.
A couple of comments on our agricultural book and the changes implied by the new standard reinsurance agreement or SRA which is written, managed and forced by the USDA. More than two-thirds of our premium is spread across 43 of the 45 states which will benefit from the improved gain-loss sharing provisions in the new SRA.
With less than one-third of our premium being concentrated in the five main corn-belt states, where the new gain-loss sharing provisions are less attractive. This compares with the 60-40 split to the industry as a whole. With our more favorable premium distribution and given the high caliber of our quota share product base, we believe we are well positioned to compete with our quota share writing peers as we prepare for our formal 2011 quota share renewal negotiations.
Turning to Lloyd's. Gross premiums written rose 7.6% to $49 million compared to $45 million in 2009. Business written in Brazil generated almost $7 million of gross premiums written in the quarter. Excluding Brazil, growth was slightly lower than expected. Generally the market is softening with rates continue to fall in most business lines by up to 5% year-on-year.
The second quarter 2010 combined ratio improved to 73.2% from 99% in 2009, reflecting both loss and expense ratio improvements. The loss ratio improved by 14.7 points in the second quarter, reflecting 9.2 points of favorable development in the financial institutions and professional liability lines, fewer loss events and a business mix shift.
Acquisition costs improved to a ratio of 18.3% from 24.8% in 2009, reflecting the addition of international casualty business at the start of the year which has a lower average acquisition cost ratio.
The G&A expense ratio was 4.6 points lower than a year ago benefiting from profit commissions earned through the Lloyd's syndicates which are not wholly owned by Alterra and which saw favorable underwriting results.
US Specialty gross premiums written grew 20% to $97 million in second quarter compared to $81 million a year ago. Growth is primarily being driven by the addition of professional liability to our product offerings in the fourth quarter of 2009 and by the incremental expansion of our property, marine and general liability lines.
Our book remains more heavily weighted towards short-term lines with approximately two-thirds in property and marine. We have previously told you that if the US book matures we would begin to retain more of the profitable business.
During the second quarter we terminated a property quota share treaty which resulted in a 21 million reduction in treaty premium and the return of prepaid premiums. We replaced the quota share treaty with the surplus share treaty under which we can retain more of the risk in line with our long-term objectives.
The combined ratio was 97.3% in the second quarter of 2010 compared to 100.4% in the prior year. The overall expense ratio with an improved 36.1% compared to 39% in the 2009 period.
The G&A expense ratio improved to 16.8% in the second quarter of 2010 from 26.3% a year ago, principally due to the additional net premiums earned. The ratio has steadily declined as our net premiums earned have grown. The up-tick in the acquisition cost ratio to 19.3% from 12.7% a year ago is due to lower overwrite commissions as we have retained more business and [seeded] less to reinsurance.
Net investment income was $53.3 million for the quarter, a 27.6% increase compared to 2009. The increase reflects the additional cash and invested assets resulting from the merger and a shift from cash fixed income securities where we are picking up additional yield.
The cash allocation has reduced to 9.6% of invested asset compared to 12.9% at the end of the first quarter 2010. In the second quarter our hedge funds produced a small loss of $3.3 million or a loss of 0.69% outpacing the loss of 2.55% return on the HFRI Fund of Funds Index in the same period.
The current annualized yield on our cash to fixed maturity portfolio is approximately 3.35% for the quarter ended 30 June 2010. Historically, the yield on Harbor Point's fixed income portfolio has been lower than that of Max due to short reliability durations. Our balance sheet remains strong giving us significant financial flexibility. We ended the quarter with $2.9 billion in shareholders equity. Book value per diluted share at June 30, 2010 was $24.55 compared to $27.36 at December 31, 2009, a decrease of 10.3%. The decrease in book value shift per share reflects the impact of the $2.50 per share special dividend paid shortly after the completion of the merger as well as purchase accounting adjustments.
The merger and acquisition expense line in our income statement shows a net benefit of $54.6 million for the second quarter of 2010. We have not included this in our operating income numbers. This number comprises of M&A related expenses of $41.2 million and a negative goodwill gain from the merger of $95.8 million after recording all assets and liabilities at fair value. The principal fair value adjustments to the Harbor Point balance sheet as a result of the acquisition accounting at May 12 were an adjustment to reserves and the write-off of good will.
It should be noted that the fair value adjustment to reserves incorporates a discounts for the time value of money plus a risk margin, resulting in an increase in reserved balance. We did not adjust the notional value of the Harbor Point loss reserves as of the date of the merger. The fair value adjustment did not reflect the reserve deficiency but merely an estimate of fair value and stage market.
We continue to actively manage our capital. During the second quarter, we initiated a 10b-5 share repurchase program and separately acquired shares under a privately negotiated share repurchase agreement. Total share for second quarter share repurchases was $32.5 million or just under $1.7 million shares.
Year to date, we have declared $323 million in dividends and have repurchased $44.4 million of our common share, dollars worth of our common shares. We anticipate utilizing the remaining $91 million in authorized share repurchases this year. In aggregate, this will be returned to all capital to shareholders of approximately $460 million or 15% of our pro forma opening shareholder's equity assuming a pro forma opening shareholders equity position of $3 billion.
With that, I'd like to turn the call over to our operator for any questions.
(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from the line of Dean Evans. Please proceed.
Thanks for taking my questions and congrats on the good quarter. I was first wondering if you could give us an update on the progress of the buildout of both the US Specialty and the Lloyd's segment. I know, in the past, you'd given some expense ratio goals and also premium expectations. I'm just wondering if you could revisit that as we are six months into the year with respect to sort of current market conditions and how you've been trending so far.
Taking the US first, the expense ratio is rapidly moving towards that south of 35% estimate which is our target for the expense ratio in the US. So we feel good about the progress there. You are clearly going to see quarter-over-quarter, a slow down in growth as we have reached pretty much critical math in all but our newer areas of PL and casualty and those would be fairly small areas relative to the overall book of business.
So absence cycle change, you won't see a lot of gross written premium growth in our US operation quarter-over-quarter going forward and Lloyd's we're moving towards an expense ratio of less than 35% also which is in line with the Lloyd's market average. We would love to beat that market average if we can. We are still seeing meaningful growth in premium volumes from the teams that we recruited last year but with gardening leaves started to produce business for us this year in the Lloyd's operation.
We continue to view London and Lloyd as an attractive place to be recruiting specialty insurance players. And so, while we have no announcements to make at the present time, we would hope between now and year end that we have made some additional additions to our franchise which can help contribute to the 2011 underwriting year.
Dean, its worth mentioning that on the Lloyd's, our actual result for the year is approximately, expense ratios closer to 32% and 35%, but if you look at the quarter, it is a little higher and we did benefit in the first half of the year as I mentioned before. Some fee income that we received from managing the other agencies. You would note and expect to have that every quarter.
I guess just to touch back quickly on the US Specialty, you did mention a little bit about the attention and some of the movements in your Reinsurance there. How do we think about that going forward? I guess historically, last year, it was around a 45% retention. So far this year, it is a little bit above that. How do we sort of ballpark that going forward?
We would expect that to probably come down little bit, probably somewhere in the region of 35% to 40%. I think it's probably our longer term goal. We are reducing the cede that we have in our property business in particular the brokerage property business, which has been one of more attractive lines of business being, so we will expect that to come down little bit this year.
When you say 35% to 40%, you mean 35% to 40% ceded?
Yes, that's correct.
And I guess sort of my last question if I could? I was wondering if you could give a little bit more detail on the reserve releases in the quarter, particularly sort of what accident years you were seeing that from and also if you could give us what the Harbor Point number was for reserve movements.
There were no Harbor Point reserve development in our numbers. In my previously prepared remarks I had given you line items. In the supplement and in the Q, we will be providing each of the line items that are being affected. Did you pick it up from there?
Was there any broad sort of I guess accident year in particular that saw a bulk of the development, or…?
On the property side, it would have been the last year or two and on some of the longer tail lines, it's from the earlier years 2005-2004.
(Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from the line of Mark Dwelle. Please proceed.
Good morning. A few questions. First, kind of just building on the questions related to US Specialty. I was wondering if you could, you described a couple of changes in terms of both the ceding program and then you kind of suggested that there was some return of premium. Could you kind of outline how that impacted both net written and earned written premiums in the quarter?
On the written basis it reduced the CD premium by $21 million mark. So you all have seen that reduce down, we'd obviously recorded the full, expect to see the premium when we wrote that program. So when we terminated in the second quarter, we had a reversal of some of that premium.
In terms of earned, it probably hasn't affected a lot in the second quarter and you will expect to see a little bit more. It has some effect. I don't have the exact number of how much are earned benefited in the quarter from that, which I can come back to you with. But you will obviously see more of the earning piece of that coming through in the remainder of the year.
The second question I had related to the investment portfolio. You commented that the yields that came over from the Harbor Point assets and so forth were a little bit lower than the yields that you had been running in I'll say the historic Max portfolio. Judging by the yield on the fixed income portion in the quarter, there was a pretty significant overall decline. Is that something that you will be looking to I guess revise by lengthening duration, or are you just going to let that run off and kind of invest it as it rolls over? Is it something you're going to proactively recalibrate?
Well, we will look to hopefully improve the yield on a combined basis. A couple of things to note Mark, the Harbor Point investment portfolio was much to a shorter duration liability portfolio. So when you sit back within our total perimeter of a combined company we should be on to reinvest it more and little longer duration. What's hurting us little bit of course is that new money; it's hard to find attractive investment opportunity. So, we'd like to say that we want to do it quickly but it won't be as easy as that to do. But I would anticipate that their historical yield was probably close to the 2.5 to 6 number. As our number was probably higher in the 3s because we have a longer duration portfolio including the light business; I would anticipate that will have an opportunity to put more of their money to work and improve their yield and our overall combined will probably come down to somewhere around the 3-3, 3-4 mark.
And Mark just to add to that, both portfolios were carrying an outsized position in cash which cash today is almost no earning potential. We finally have capitulated that we don't expect rates to jump up in the near term and so we are putting most of that cash to work in the shorter duration portion of the curve. One, two and three year paper which doesn't pay a robust return but its better than 25 basis points, which is kind of the current cash number. So, you will see some uptick there also.
The decision to sort of not actively seek more Life business, will that have a meaningful effect on the way the portfolio is rebalanced? I know the durations there had always been much longer, or is that always kind of if not physically segregated, at least mentally segregated in terms of how you're managing the book?
That longer term portfolio which largely co-relates with the Life book has a long life line. It's going to be sometime before you would see noticeable change in the overall invested assets for the run off of that Life business.
And then one last question related to the 10b-5 plan. You commented in terms of expecting to utilize your share buyback program over the balance of the year. Will you be doing that primarily through that program, or is the 10b-5 just going to be kind of a small recurring portion and then you'll opportunistically execute the balance of the program over top of that?
Mark, we will execute probably two-thirds of that program in our 10b-5 plan and we will not be purchasing in the open market at the same time. You wouldn't ordinarily do that. But once we've executed the 10b-5 plan to the end of this, the third quarter, actually just into the early part of the fourth quarter, we will then look to access the open market to execute the remainder of our plan.
(Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from the line of Ian Gutterman. Please proceed.
I guess just to start off maybe following up on the Life business, can you just give us a feel for what that, if we kind of think of it almost like a run-off book now, how that plays out to earnings as far as the decline?
It actually, whether it's, you would say within run-off or inactive, the business earns out in the same way in. It's a spread business and as you know, the liabilities on that book are recorded on a present value basis. So you effectively unwind the discount on those reserves over time. And then, what you're matching that against is with the income that you generate on the asset that you originally invested when you acquired them. So we would expect to continue to do that in an orderly fashion. It would give the same contribution in the upcoming quarters that it has in the past quarters assuming similar returns because we have invested those assets.
I think in simplistically, you need to think of it as an annuity on the balance sheet that pays out over a long period of time.
I guess what I'm wondering is, if I am modeling out into future years, should I assume the income is 10% lower next year and then 10% lower the year after that, something along those lines, or is it more gradual?
I would imagine it is a little bit more gradual than that. We would ordinarily expect it to take a little longer than 10 years to settle all of these liabilities. So probably, a little bit longer than that Ian but not a whole term longer.
What happens to the hedge fund investments that are matched on this? Does this lead to any redemptions or do you just let those mature?
The hedge funds are not explicitly matched to the Life assets and our invested asset allocation to the alternative area or the hedge fund area will remain unchanged. We think 5% to 7% is an appropriate level.
On the cat loss in the quarter, I think there was around $20 million or so first, was that all in reinsurance, was any of it elsewhere? And was any of it at Harbor Point?
Predominantly on the reinsurance line and it did not include the Harbor Point number. The Deepwater Horizon was prior to our merger, so they are not included in those numbers, Ian.
So that $20 million was all just attritional type cash basically?
Well it Max's Deepwater Horizon and some various other per-risk events.
What was Max's Deepwater number?
We announced $8 to $12 million I think on our last call. We haven't changed that estimate.
Can you give what the pro forma was for Harbor Point cats?
Deepwater Horizon number would be in probably be like $20 million to $25 million. That's their significant event in the quarter.
And then just moving on to your PML exposure, I guess a couple of things first. Do you have like what are more frequent return figures like a 1 in 10 or 1 in 25? I'm just trying to get a sense of what your frequency risk is?
We don't have it in front of us. We obviously do have that data in but we don't have it in front of us.
Can you just give me a feel for it? Do you tend to be more exposed to frequency or severity? Meaning is two $10 billion storms worse for you than one $20 million storm, or are two $20 million worse than one $40 million?
It depends on which line of business you are looking at. So it would probably be easier if we just took a look at the actual data. We have all the data. We just don't have it in front of us Ian. I would rather give you the right number or provide the right data
And just one related point on that is can you give us a sense, is Florida your Max zone or is it something else? I guess what are your top two or three PML zones?
Well, Florida for us and everybody else would typically be the largest zone, just by the mathematics. California quake also remains a big number and then of course, the classic golf area. So it's really not two different than everybody else. I would say proportionately, our appetite for Florida is less than many other players and in the July 1 renewal season, we meaningfully reduced our Florida exposure.
I think the other thing to; it's worth mentioning Ian because I think it's an excellent question you've raised. Both companies had a historically low appetite for cat type events and I think if you go back over history and look at our results compared to our peer group, you will see that we typically take less. Even in the first quarter was an example of that with the Chile and the Australian storms and some European storms, that our losses on a combined basis were approximately 1.5% of combined equity compared to probably 5% for maybe more of our peer groups, and I think you could do the same if you were to go back to Ike, Gustav in 2008 and look at them. So, I think you will see us continue to be at the low end of losses on a cat basis.
I think my last question is the pro forma results you put out, you had one page where you show pro forma reinsurance segment. Then I think the last page of the segment was pro forma for the company. Is the only difference between those two essentially investment income and corporate expenses since all of the underwriting is in the reinsurance segment? Or are there any other adjustments I might need to make??
No, I think you have it there. So the Harbor Point operations are all reinsurance and the difference is our some of the corporate items as you have mentioned.
And this concludes the Q&A portion of today's conference. I would like to turn the call back over to Mr. Marty Becker. Please proceed, sir.
Thank you very much Shimika. And once again we appreciate each of you for taking the time to join our call. We are very pleased with the progress of Alterra and quite excited about the opportunities in the future. As always if you have individual follow-up questions please feel free to reach out to Joe and myself and we'll be happy to help you. Thank you once again.
Thank you for your participation in today's conference. This concludes the presentation. You may now disconnect. Good day.
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