(Recasts; adds analyst’s comments, background)
By Sweta Singh
BANGALORE, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Bermuda-based reinsurer PartnerRe Ltd’s PRE.N quarterly operating profit handily beat Wall Street’s view, even as it took losses related to the write-down of its investment in a reinsurer formed solely to do business with hard-hit bond insurer MBIA Inc (MBI.N).
The beat was driven by a combination of the release of cash reserves, good underwriting and a little bit of luck considering the weather was good during the quarter, Clifford Gallant of Keefe Bruyette & Woods said by phone.
Operating income, which excluded net realized gains and losses, rose to $257.4 million, or $4.55 a share, during the fourth quarter, from $210.1 million, or $3.61 a share, a year ago.
Analysts expected the company to earn $3.20 a share, excluding items, according to Reuters Estimates.
Net premiums earned for the fourth quarter fell about 12 million to $989.8 million, while net investment income increased about $12 million to $137.8 million.
On a GAAP basis, PartnerRe reported fourth-quarter net income of $180.6 million, or $3.04 a share, down from $242.7 million, or $4.03 a share, a year ago.
In January, another reinsurer RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd (RNR.N) and PartnerRe said they will write off 3-year-old investments in Channel Re, a reinsurer formed solely to do business with MBIA.
The announcement had come after Channel Re notified the companies that fourth-quarter losses stemming from its business with MBIA are expected to exceed its shareholders equity.
PartnerRe had said it would take a fourth-quarter charge of about $1.31 per share to write down its investment.
Reinsurers effectively insure other insurers, spreading the risk of losses among more than one party.
Last week, PartnerRe’s rival, Everest Re Group (RE.N), had reported a 94 percent fall in net income, hurt by asbestos-related charges.
Asbestos, which caused lung-related illnesses, has cost insurers billions of dollars in claims, and symptoms can take up to 40 years to develop after exposure.
PartnerRe does not have any significant exposure to asbestos claims, a company spokeswoman said. Shares of PartnerRe closed at $79.90 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. (Editing by Pratish Narayanan)