February 13, 2020 / 11:59 AM / 7 days ago

AIG profit beats on stronger underwriting in general insurance unit

(Reuters) - Insurer American International Group Inc (AIG.N) on Thursday reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates, as the company booked underwriting income in its general insurance business.

FILE PHOTO: American International Group Inc. (AIG) headquarters seen on the day of the company's 2017 annual shareholder meeting at 175 Water Street, New York, U.S., June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Suzanne Barlyn/File Photo

AIG, one of the largest insurers in the United States, posted an underwriting income of $12 million in its general insurance business for the quarter, compared with a loss of $1.07 billion, a year earlier.

Underwriting income is the difference between premiums an insurer collects on policies and claims it pays out.

Net pre-tax catastrophe loss at the general insurance unit narrowed to $411 million from $826 million, a year earlier.

AIG shares were down about 2.5% at $52.90 in late morning trading.

Chief Executive Officer Brian Duperreault, who joined the insurer in 2017, has been overhauling the underwriting culture at AIG’s general insurance business through initiatives including raising rates and shedding unprofitable lines.

Total net investment income rose 30% to $3.6 billion in the reported quarter.

AIG’s general insurance accident year combined ratio, a key metric, which excludes changes from losses incurred in past years, was 95.8 for the quarter, compared with 98.8 a year earlier.

A ratio below 100 means the insurer earned more in premiums than it paid out in claims.

“It’s hard to say given all the issues at AIG over the last decade-plus, but I honestly can’t remember the last time AIG had a full year underwriting profit,” Duperreault said on a call with analysts.

AIG expects to invest $1.3 billion in the company through 2022 as part of an effort to modernize technology and processes while cutting expenses, said Peter Zaffino, AIG president and chief operating officer. The programs will deliver $1 billion in savings by the end of 2022, he said.

The changes will play out through 10 programs, including building a new underwriting system in the general insurance unit and transforming AIG’s Japanese insurance business into a “next-generation digital insurance company,” Zaffino said.

Net income attributable to the company’s shareholders was $922 million, or $1.03 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to a loss of $622 million, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, AIG earned $1.03 per share, beating Refinitiv estimates of $1.00.

The insurer also said it expects to pay $1.7 billion as part of a tax settlement with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which could be made as early as the first quarter of 2020.

The settlement amount, which AIG had previously disclosed, is related to cross-border financing transactions dating back to 1997.

Reporting by C Nivedita in Bengaluru and Suzanne Barlyn in New York; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Tom Brown

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