UPDATE 1-AmTrust Financial Q4 profit beats Street, raises div

Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:43pm EST

* Q4 oper EPS $0.52 vs est $0.50

* Net premiums boosts results

* Increase quarterly dividend by 17 pct

Feb 16 (Reuters) - Property and casualty insurer AmTrust Financial Services Inc (AFSI.O) reported a quarterly profit above Wall Street estimates, helped by a 20 percent increase in premiums earned, and raised it dividend by 17 percent.

The New York-based company increased its quarterly dividend to 7 cents a share from 6 cents a share.

Net income for the fourth quarter was $28.1 million, or 47 cents a share, compared with $25.0 million, or 41 cents a share, a year ago.

Operating earnings, which typically excludes any investment gains or losses and is closely watched by analysts, was 52 cents a share.

Analysts on average expected the company to earn 50 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue was $203.0 million, up 22 percent from the year-ago quarter. Net earned premium increased 20 percent to $159.4 million.

The dividend will be payable on April 15 to shareholders of record as of April 1, the company said in a statement.

Shares of the company closed at $11.74 in regular session on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Sweta Singh in Bangalore; Editing by Anne Pallivathuckal)