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Hartford swings to $81M loss in fourth quarter

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Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. on Thursday posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $81 million compared with net income of $421 million a year ago.

The net loss was largely due to a fourth-quarter after-tax charge of $423 million resulting from a reinsurance agreement with National Indemnity Co. covering Hartford's asbestos and environmental liability exposures, the insurer said in a statement.

"The Hartford delivered strong performance this quarter, although losses from personal auto and the charge from our reinsurance agreement for asbestos and environmental exposures impacted our results,” Chairman and CEO Christopher Swift said in the statement.

Last month, Hartford Financial announced it had entered the agreement with National Indemnity, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary, for a $1.5 billion aggregate excess of loss reinsurance agreement covering certain of Hartford’s asbestos and environmental liability exposures. The reinsurance premium for this agreement is $650 million.

The results were also affected by the $102 million decrease in property/casualty underwriting results, partially offset by a $40 million increase in investment income from limited partnerships and other alternative investments.

The combined ratio for commercial lines was 91.3% for the quarter, a deterioration from 88.1% a year ago. Consolidated earned premiums totaled $3.47 billion for the quarter, slightly higher than $3.46 billion a year ago. 

Full-year 2016 net income totaled $896 million, down 47.3% from net earnings of $1.7 billion in 2015. Consolidated earned premiums $13.8 billion for the year, compared with $13.6 billion in 2015. The combined ratio for commercial lines for the year was 92.8% vs. 92.6% the previous year.