NU Online News Service, Feb. 5, 12:33 p.m. EST

Fourth quarter results were mixed for some insurers that reported their results this past week, with four insurers reporting increased combined ratios that did not necessarily translate into a loss of net income.

Richmond, Va.-based specialty insurer Markel said net income for the fourth quarter rose 50 percent, or $47 million to $140 million. Net income per share increased $4.88 to $14.37 a share. Total revenues in the quarter rose 11 percent, or $60.5 million to $612 million.

For the year, net income rose 32 percent, or $65 million, to $268 million. Net income per share was up $6.75 to $27.27. Revenues were up 8 percent, or $156 million, to $2.23 billion.

The company reported its combined ratio improved 1 point in the quarter to 89, but for the year, it rose 2 points to 97.

“2010 has been a very busy and productive year for Markel,” said Alan I. Kirshner, chairman and chief executive officer. “On the underwriting side, we have produced solid profits while maintaining our underwriting discipline.”

Among notable events, the combined ratio included $33 million of underwriting loss on the Chilean earthquake and the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion.

Branchville, N.J.-based Selective Insurance Group, Inc., reported net income for the fourth quarter rose 16 percent, or $3.2 million, to $24 million. Total revenue rose 1 percent, or $4.3 million, to $394 million.

For the year, net income rose 80 percent, or $29 million, to $66 million. Total revenues rose 3 percent, or $51 million, to $1.56 billion.

The fourth quarter combined ratio improved 0.1 point to 100.1. For the year, the combined ratio rose 1.8 points to 101.6.

“The industry rhetoric in 2010 did not reflect the front-line reality as many carriers spoke of commercial lines pricing discipline, but never actually increased rate levels,” said Gregory E. Murphy, chairman, president and CEO. “In this highly competitive part of the cycle, we were one of the only carriers to drive and achieve commercial lines renewal rate increases that amounted to 3.1 percent.”

New York-based specialty insurer Assurant, Inc., reported a fourth quarter net loss of $184 million, or $1.74 a share, compared to net income of $12 million or 10 cents a share, for the previous year. Total revenues were down 4 percent, or $76 million, to $2.1 billion.

For the year, the company reported net income of $279 million, down 35 percent, or $151 million from the previous year. Net income per share was down $1.13 to $2.50. Total revenues dropped 2 percent, or $172 million, to $8.5 billion.

The fourth quarter results were affected by goodwill impairment charges of $306 million that are not tax deductible. 

“During 2010, we demonstrated our ability to adapt to changes affecting our business while delivering solid results to shareholders,” said Robert B. Pollock, president and CEO of Assurant. “We continued to improve operational efficiency and to demonstrate prudent management of our capital. At the same time, we were able to develop revenue opportunities that we can build upon in 2011.”

Cincinnati Financial Corp. reported fourth quarter net income dropped 49 percent, or $119 million, to $126 million. Net income per share dropped 73 cents a share to 77 cents in the quarter. Revenues were down 17 percent, or $197 million, to $936 million.

For the year, net income dropped 13 percent, or $55 million, to $377 million. Net income per share was off 34 cents to $2.31 a share. Revenues dropped 3 percent, or $131 million, to $3.77 billion.

The combined ratio before catastrophe losses and prior year reserve development stood at 109.8, off 0.8 points from the prior year’s fourth quarter. For the year, the combined ratio rose 1.4 points to 106.4.

“Results from our [property and casualty] insurance business trended positively in the fourth quarter, significantly improving our full-year 2010 performance,” said Kenneth W. Stecher, president and CEO of Cincinnati-based company. “We achieved our best quarterly results of the year, with the highest written premium growth, lowest catastrophe losses and best combined ratio.”

The soft market, loss of new business and catastrophe losses were contributing factors to the company’s performance.