Hartford Declines After Saying Slump Weighs on Insurance Sales

By Andrew Frye and Hugh Son
Bloomberg News
February 9, 2010

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- ('HIG:US') Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., the insurer that took a $3.4 billion U.S. bailout, fell the most since October in New York trading after saying the economic slump is weighing on policy sales.

Hartford slipped $1.41, or 6 percent, to $22.05 at 11:11 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Hartford, based in the Connecticut city of the same name, said late yesterday that property-casualty premiums slipped 4 percent to $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter as customers scaled back.

"The recession continues to take its toll," Chief Financial Officer Lizabeth Zlatkus said today on a conference call discussing earnings.

Chief Executive Officer Liam McGee, in his fifth month on the job, is reviewing the company's businesses and plans to announce his strategy at an investor meeting on April 1. McGee's predecessor, Ramani Ayer, accumulated more than $4 billion in losses in his last five quarters as CEO as investments soured, pushing the insurer into a $3.4 billion U.S. rescue.

The company yesterday reported its first profit in six quarters. Net income was $557 million, on improved investment results. Hartford projected 2010 operating earnings between $3.70 a share and $4 a share. That compares with the $3.97 average estimate of 18 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg before the projection.

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