W. R. Berkley First-Quarter Profit Up 5%

NU Online News Service, April 28, 1:14 p.m. EDT?The Greenwich, Conn.-based property-casualty insurer W. R. Berkley Corporation reported a 5 percent higher quarterly profit, driven by more profitable underwriting and higher investment income.[@@]

The insurer posted a first-quarter profit of $120.9 million, rising from $115.4 million one year ago. Net operating income, which excludes realized investment gains or losses, was $121 million, up from $96.8 million.

W. R. Berkley also saw a rise in net premiums written, which increased to $1.19 billion from $1.09 billion last year. Gross premiums written rose to $1.3 billion, up 10 percent. The firm’s combined ratio improved to 89.2, falling from 90.2 during the year-ago period. The investment income rose to $90 million, a 31 percent improvement from one year ago.

“We are very pleased with our results for the first quarter,” said William Berkley, chief executive officer of W. R. Berkley. He added, “Profitability continues to be excellent, and our operating units are focused on delivering value differentiating service to help maintain a high retention rate.”

Mr. Berkley observed that the 10 percent rise in gross premiums resulted primarily from new business and was “in line” with his expectations.

Commenting on current pricing, Mr. Berkley remarked that casualty pricing was generally flat with prices up in some lines and down in others. For property lines, which are not a significant part of W. R. Berkley business, pricing continues to be weaker, he said.