Fairfax Financial swings to Q3 profit of US$461.2M on investment gains

TORONTO – Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. (TSX:FFH) said Thursday that gains on its investment portfolio moved the property and casualty insurer back into profitable territory in the third quarter compared with the same period a year earlier.

The Toronto-based company, which reports in U.S. dollars, said net earnings attributable to shareholders were $461.2 million versus a net loss of $571.7 million in the year-earlier period.

On a per share basis, the earnings were US$21.10 compared with a loss of US$29.02.

Net premiums written by the insurance and reinsurance operations decreased to $1.52 billion from $1.57 billion, and were adjusted for the timing of crop insurance premiums written by OdysseyRe, its specialty insurance subsidiary.

“We are maintaining our defensive equity hedges as we remain concerned about the financial markets and the economic outlook,” chairman and CEO Prem Watsa said in a statement accompanying the financial results, which were released after markets closed.

In its results, Fairfax said the combined ratio of the insurance and reinsurance operations was 91.2 per cent on a consolidated basis, producing an underwriting profit of US$136.2 million, compared with a combined ratio and underwriting profit of 93.4 per cent and $104.7 million respectively in 2013.

Interest and dividend income increased to US$73.8 million from $61.2 million in the 2013 period, primarily because of lower total return swap costs and a modest increase in investment income earned, the company said.

Net investment gains were $493.7 million versus net investment losses of $828.6 million in the 2013 period.