White Mts. results take a hit from Sandy

White Mountains Insurance Group weathered the storm – namely Hurricane Sandy – and still came out ahead, but not by much, at least by the insurance conglomerate's usual standards.

The company – officially headquartered in Bermuda, but mostly run out of Hanover — finished the year with net income of $68 million ($10.43 per share) for its last quarter, bringing 2012 earnings to $207.4 million.

While that might be an incredible earnings report for most companies, it was quite a drop from 2011, when the comparable quarterly earnings were $800 million, and annual income was $809 million.

White Mountains measures success by book value per share, which it reported at $588, up 2.4 percent for the quarter and 8.6 percent for the year.

The gains came despite the "magnitude of Hurricane Sandy," in the words of White Mountains CEO Ray Barrette, which hurt the company's main subsidiaries OneBeacon and Sirius Group.

"We had a tough fourth quarter," said Mike Miller, CEO of OneBeacon. "Our large marine book accounted for nearly half of our gross losses from Sandy in what is estimated to be the largest marine industry loss in history."

White Mountains – which has jettisoned some major lines of business over the past few years – remains flush with fluid capital, with $1.1 billion in cash and short-term investments — though that figure is about $450 million lower than it was at the end of last year.

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