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Aspen weathers cat losses, boosts profit


Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd. reported higher profits in the second quarter of 2016 despite catastrophe losses related to the Japan earthquake and Canadian wildfires and energy sector losses.

The Hamilton, Bermuda-based insurer and reinsurer reported net income after tax of $64.9 million in the second quarter, up 32.4% from the second quarter of 2015, according to the company's earnings report released Wednesday.

Net pre-tax catastrophe losses totaled $65.1 million in the quarter, up from $11.9 million in the 2015 period, amid the Kumamoto earthquake in Japan, the Fort McMurray, Alberta, wildfire and weather events in the United States, according to the report.

“Catastrophes were up for the first half, but that's really to be expected given the industry events that we have seen,” said Brian Schneider, Chicago-based senior director for Fitch Ratings Ltd. “I think they showed good growth in their business, and a lot of it is coming from the expansion into the crop business. It's a positive in that it adds diversification to their book of business and maybe gives them a little bit of a bigger footprint in the insurance and the reinsurance space.”

In January, the insurer acquired Overland Park, Kansas-based AgriLogic Insurance Services L.L.C., a specialist U.S. crop business, which added $12 million in premiums to Aspen's reinsurance segment in the second quarter.

The company's combined ratio deteriorated to 100.7% for the second quarter of 2016 compared with 93.6% for the 2015 quarter, according to the report.

Overall, net written premiums rose to $724.8 million in the second quarter of this year, up 12.5% from the period last year.

Net written premiums in the company's insurance segment increased 2.9%, to $418.0 million, in the second quarter from a year earlier amid growth in the financial and professional lines and certain property/casualty lines. However, these gains were offset by a decline in the marine, aviation and energy book as the company saw $41.7 million of midsized losses, including $25.7 million in the energy sector primarily from a damaged vessel in the Jubilee field off Ghana and an explosion at an oil facility owned by Mexican state-owned oil company Pemex that killed more than 30 people.

The energy segment in the United States and abroad saw premium rates drop by as much as 10% driven by excess capacity and the continued low price of crude oil, Group CEO Chris O'Kane said during the company's earnings conference call Thursday morning.

“We've continued to deploy capital away from marine, energy and aviation sub-segments into other more attractive lines such as accident/health, U.K. regional P&C, global casualty, U.S. professional liability and cyber, where we have seen better prospects, rates are under less pressure and experience is less volatile,” he said.

Mr. O'Kane said Aspen sees opportunities in political risk coverage, but Brian Meredith, managing director at UBS in New York, questioned whether that was a “wise” business to pursue given global events. However, the fears and dangers in the world do create pricing and opportunities, as it has historically in countries such as Russia, China and Angola, Mr. O'Kane said.

“There's never been much of a market for let's say Swiss political risk,” he said. “Most of what we're doing is backing North American, European and occasionally Japanese exporters of project finance in areas of the world that do indeed carry a bit of political risk. This is a business that's performed incredibly well for us.”

For the six-month period, the company reported net income after tax of $179.3 million, a 1.3% increase from the first half of 2015. Net premiums written rose to $1.5 billion in the first half, up 8.3% from a year earlier.