Higher insurance rates boost Hartford Financial's profit

Mon Oct 28, 2013 6:20pm EDT

(Reuters) - Insurer Hartford Financial Services Group's (HIG.N) third-quarter operating profit beat analysts' average estimate as pricing rose 8 percent in its property and casualty commercial business.

Hartford's core earnings from its property and casualty (P&C) commercial business rose about 9 percent to $176 million. Underwriting gains more than doubled to $30 million.

On an operating basis, the insurer earned $1.03 per share. Analysts on average had expected 83 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Hartford's P&C combined ratio, the percentage of premium revenue that insurers pay out as claims, improved to 92.8 percent from 96.3 percent last year.

Earned premium from its P&C business, however, fell less than 1 percent to $2.49 billion.

Net income rose to $293 million, or 60 cents per share, from $13 million, or 1 cent per share, a year earlier, when Hartford's sale of its Individual Life business led to an after-tax net loss of $388 million, the company said.

Hartford has been shedding its annuities business, retirement plans business and life insurance operations to focus on the more stable P&C business.

Reuters reported earlier this month that private equity firms like J.C. Flower & Co and Apollo Global Management LLC (APO.N) are among a handful of companies expected to bid for the insurer's Japanese annuity business.

Hartford, based in the Connecticut city of the same name, is the 11th-largest P&C insurer in the country with a market share of about 2 percent, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIL), a multi-state insurance regulatory body.

Shares of Hartford, which has a market value of more than $15 billion, closed at $33.90 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. They were up more than 1 percent after the bell.

(Reporting by Avik Das in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian)

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