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XL Group Swings To Red In 1Q On Wide Catastrophe Losses

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES XL Group PLC (XL) swung to a first-quarter loss on wide catastrophe losses from recent natural disasters, and the property and casualty insurer's core loss was deeper than expected. The company, which also provides reinsurance, reported natural catastrophe losses of $387.4 million, net of reinstatement premiums, in its property and casualty operations. The company last month estimated its total losses from March's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan would range from $190 million to $290 million, on top of an estimated $70 million to $85 million in losses it already anticipated from a New Zealand earthquake. The period also included severe floods in Australia. As a result, combined ratio--the percentage of premiums paid out on losses and expenses--jumped to 126% from 101% in the P&C business. Excluding the disasters and prior-year development, the ratio would have risen to 101% from 93.1%. Despite the disasters' hit to the bottom line in the latest quarter, analysts have noted that their trauma will likely spur more demand for insurance and reinsurance. For a long stretch, relief from massively damaging events and economic pressure increased the frequency that people skipped coverage. In prior quarters lately, XL's results have improved thanks to investment recovery, as well as higher premiums more recently. Tuesday, XL Group posted a loss of $227.3 million, or 73 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $143.9 million, or 37 cents a share. Its operating results, which strip out investment gains and losses as well as other items like foreign-exchange effects, swung to a 52-cent loss per share from a 44-cent profit. Net premiums written increased 7.4% to $1.71 billion. Premiums earned in the property-and-casualty operations also rose 0.6% to $1.27 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters predicted a 45-cent operating loss per share on earned P&C premiums of $1.27 billion. Book value per share, a measure of assets and liabilities, declined 2.5% from the prior quarter. XL shares closed Tuesday at $24.20 and weren't active after hours. The stock has risen 36% in the past year, better than the broader market. -By Joan E. Solsman, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2291;

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