April 20, 2017 / 11:20 AM / 7 months ago

Travelers' profit falls on higher catastrophe losses

(Reuters) - Property and casualty insurer Travelers Cos Inc (TRV.N) reported an 11 percent fall in quarterly profit hurt by higher catastrophe losses and lower underwriting gains.

The company also authorized a $5 billion share buyback program.

Wind and hail storms in several regions of the United States, as well as a winter storm in the eastern part of the country resulted in higher catastrophe losses during the quarter.

Net income fell to $617 million, or $2.17 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $691 million, or $2.30 per share, a year earlier.

On a core basis, the company earned $2.16 per share.

Total revenue rose 3.8 percent to $6.94 billion.

However, net investment income rose 12 percent to $610 million, reflecting higher interest rates.

December and March saw the latest hikes in interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve. A 0.25 percentage point uptick in each case, the hikes marked only the second and third raise in seven years, after being kept near zero.

Travelers invests a lot of its insurance premiums in investment grade bonds, which helped the company come out of the financial crisis in a good shape.

Gains from underwriting, before tax, halved to $211 million.

Pre-tax catastrophe losses, net of reinsurance, rose to $347 million from $318 million.

The underlying combined ratio, the percentage of premium revenue Travelers pays out in claims, rose to 91.7 percent from 90 percent.

A ratio below 100 percent means an insurer earns more in premiums than it pays out in claims.

Net written premiums rose 5.3 percent to $6.50 billion.

St. Paul, Minnesota-based Travelers, the only property and casualty insurer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI, is often considered a bellwether for the sector.

American International Group Inc (AIG.N), with whom it competes for the title of the biggest U.S. P&C insurer, reports first-quarter results on May 3.

Through Wednesday’s close, Travelers stock had risen 1.7 percent so far this year.

Reporting by Nikhil Subba and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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