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W.R. Berkley’s profit jumps on robust underwriting, investment returns


(Reuters) — Commercial insurer W.R. Berkley said Tuesday its first-quarter profit rose 50% due to strong returns from its investments and a stronger underwriting performance.

Higher interest rates have boosted insurers’ earnings on their debt securities portfolio, while their returns from equity investments have also surged amid stock market rallies on hopes of a soft landing.

Greenwich, Connecticut-based W.R. Berkley's net investment income jumped 43% to $319.8 million in the first quarter, and net premiums written grew nearly 11%, as businesses revived spending on insurance policies due to easing concerns of a recession.

The 57-year-old company's insurance division caters to commercial clients in the United States and other international markets, while its Reinsurance & Monoline Excess unit provides coverage to other insurers to help them manage their risk.

First-quarter profit for W.R. Berkley's common stockholders rose to $442.5 million, or $1.64 per share, compared with $294.1 million, or $1.06 per share, in the year-earlier period.

Shares of the company rose marginally before the bell. As of Monday's close, they had risen 18% this year.

The company reported a combined ratio of 88.8%, compared with 90.6% in last year’s first quarter. A ratio below 100% shows that an insurer earned more in premiums than it paid out in claims.