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Berkley ups profit in solid quarter

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W.R. Berkley Corp. reported a 1% increase in net income in a market in which it said insurance continues to be incrementally more competitive while reinsurance is gradually becoming less intensely competitive.

The 1% net income increase for the Greenwich, Connecticut-based insurer and reinsurer boosted its quarterly profit to $119.5 million.

Berkley’s net written premiums for the first quarter increased 5.6% to $1.66 billion, while the company improved its combined ratio 93.5% versus 93.9% for the same quarter last year.

Total revenue increased 3.6% to $1.81 billion.

It was a “pretty solid quarter,” Berkeley President and CEO W. Robert Berkley Jr. said during Tuesday’s earnings call.

Mr. Berkley said the insurer is charging an additional premium for new business compared with renewal business, which gives it “a degree of comfort that the integrity of the book is remaining intact, and we’re not buying business or burning our way into the market in any way, shape or form.”

Saying there are several opportunities for the insurer, Mr. Berkley said: “We think our structure lends itself for us to be able to be a bit more nimble, to use a bit of scalpel or a laser, as opposed to a cleaver.”

Looking at the market overall, Mr. Berkley said there has been “little change in the market, with insurance, becoming incrementally more competitive” and reinsurance becoming less so.

“There is a fair amount of dislocation in the marketplace that is stemming from the degree of reorganization” as well as mergers and acquisitions, Mr. Berkley said.

Another trend, he said, is that it appears that some of the largest reinsurance buyers, which several years ago increased their retentions and reduced reinsurance purchases, now are re-entering the marketplace.

“I don’t think that is a silver bullet for the reinsurance market, but it may be helpful in the balance between supply and demand,” Mr. Berkley said.