January 22, 2019 / 12:22 PM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-Insurer Travelers fourth-quarter profit beats estimates

(Compares with analyst estimates, adds revenue, premiums, catastrophe losses)

Jan 22 (Reuters) - Insurer Travelers Cos Inc reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Tuesday, as growth in premiums and investment income offset catastrophe losses related to the California wildfires.

U.S. property and casualty insurers have been grappling with catastrophe losses arising from the California wildfires and Hurricane Michael in October, the fiercest storm to hit Florida in 80 years.

Travelers recorded pre-tax catastrophe losses of $453 million related to the wildfires and $158 million due to Hurricane Michael in the reported quarter.

New York-based Travelers, often seen as a bellwether for the insurance sector, said net written premiums rose 4.2 percent to $6.69 billion.

Net investment income rose 5 percent to $630 million, due to higher returns from its fixed income and private equity portfolio business.

The company reported a combined ratio of 97.5 percent, compared with 95.5 percent a year earlier. A ratio below 100 percent means the insurer earns more in premiums than it pays out in claims.

Net income rose to $621 million, or $2.32 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $551 million, or $1.98 per share, a year earlier, that was hit by a one-time charge related to changes in the U.S. tax code.

On a core basis, the company earned $2.13 per share while analysts were expecting $2.05 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Total revenue rose 4.6 percent to $7.80 billion. (Reporting by Bharath Manjesh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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