The Hartford Reports $15 Million Loss In Second Quarter; Shares Set to Rise

The Hartford Courant
July 30, 2009

The Hartford reported a second-quarter loss Wednesday of $15 million, its best quarterly showing of the past year, as investment losses narrowed and earnings from core operations beat analysts' expectations.

The insurer's second-quarter loss, which equals 6 cents per share, contrasts with net income of $543 million in the same quarter last year, and earnings per share of $1.73. Shares in The Hartford are expected to push higher today, as the company and financial analysts say the report shows problems easing.

Core earnings which exclude realized capital gains or losses were $622 million, down 11 percent, or $1.90 per diluted share, down 14 percent.

The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. attributed its net loss in the quarter largely to lower income on investments other than trading securities reported as $1 billion, down 17 percent.

The company also revised downward its full-year core earnings guidance, to a range of 0 cents to 20 cents per diluted share. The previous range was 5 cents to 45 cents. The new guidance assumes a third-quarter charge of $35 million to $45 million for restructuring in The Hartford's global variable annuity business, among other things.

By the end of the year, Chief Executive Ramani Ayer said in a statement, The Hartford expects to cut "run-rate expenses" for life insurance operations by about 18 percent. The company has cut more than 500 jobs nationwide since late 2008, and additional layoffs are expected.

In early June, Ayer announced that he will retire by the end of the year, and The Hartford said that it will seek a successor from outside the company. The Hartford also received $3.4 billion in federal bailout money, and maintains that its capital position is solid.

Shares in The Hartford closed Wednesday at $14.96 on the New York Stock Exchange, up slightly in regular trading, before the late-afternoon earnings report. Shares are up sharply from a low of $3.62 on March 6, but still down by more than 76 percent from a year ago.

Net realized capital loss for the recent quarter, after tax, was $649 million, attributed largely to a $207 million set-aside and a $300 million charge related to its deal for federal money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which closed last month.

Net income from property and casualty lines fell 31 percent, to $173 million, as the company's premium revenue fell by 5 percent to $2.5 billion, due to economic conditions, including lower payrolls and business closings and other factors. Core earnings for the division fell 25 percent, to $212 million.

Net income from life insurance fell 47 percent in the quarter, to $176 million, with core earnings down 10 percent, to $493 million.

The Hartford said that it is still considering "strategic alternatives" for its institutional markets business, which lost $66 million in the quarter 120 percent more than it lost in the same quarter last year and said that this was due to bad limited partnerships and "other alternative investments."

Nonetheless, Ayer said in a written release, "With investors returning to the markets, our mutual fund deposits exceeded $3 billion for the first time since the third quarter of 2008."

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