ACE Ltd Earnings Call Nuggets: Underwriting Margins and the 2013 Guidance

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ACE Ltd (NYSE:ACE) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Underwriting Margins

Jay Gelb – Barclays Capital: Evan, with the rate increases lapping each other now getting P&C rate increases on top of higher rate increases. To what extent do you think underwriting margins could improve?

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Evan G. Greenberg – Chairman and CEO: I think they can improve is the short answer, but let me expand on it a little. First of all, we have a very good current accident year combined ratio, as you know. Take away crop. I think it’s its own market. It’s a separate business. When you’re looking at commercial, retail, wholesale business, you better off without that. We have a very good current accident year ex-crop relative to most of the industry. Pricing and underwriting selection has contributed to-date to a modest expansion in margin and trend is increasing towards further margin expansion and I think that will happen. As important or more important, pricing has contributed to our ability to write a substantial amount of new business across a broad set of products at relatively higher rates than our renewals, about 109% plus adequacy versus renewals. So, I do see some margin expansion, but I also see how it is contributing to growth. From what we see looking at the first quarter right now, pricing is as good. It’s very early days, but in January pricing was as good, or better than we saw even in December which was the best month of the quarter and that’s contributing to us, writing substantial amount in the new business, I think growth rates going forward are going to look pretty good too.

Jay Gelb – Barclays Capital: Then just had a couple quick follow-ups for Phil. You said that the investment income run rate is around $520 million that would be down pretty meaningfully from $567 million in the fourth quarter. So, I just – I didn’t know if that included some one-time investment gains or an FX benefit, what’s the difference?

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