United Fire Group, Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter and Year End 2017 Results

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa, Feb. 14, 2018 — United Fire Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:UFCS),Consolidated Financial Results – Highlights(1):United Fire Group, Inc. (the “Company” or “UFG”) (Nasdaq:UFCS) today reported consolidated net income, including net realized investment gains and losses, of $46.0 million ($1.81 per diluted share) for the three-month period ended December 31, 2017 (the “fourth quarter”), compared to consolidated net income of $12.0 million ($0.46 per diluted share) for the same period in 2016. For the year ended December 31, 2017 (the “full year”), consolidated net income, including investment gains and losses, was $51.0 million ($1.99 per diluted share) compared to $49.9 million ($1.93 per diluted share) for the same period in 2016.The Company reported consolidated adjusted operating income of $1.78 per diluted share for fourth quarter 2017 compared to consolidated adjusted operating income of $0.46 per diluted share for the same period in 2016. For the year ended December 31, 2017, the Company reported consolidated adjusted operating income of $1.79 per diluted share compared to consolidated adjusted operating income of $1.78 per diluted share for 2016.“Our fourth quarter and year-end 2017 results benefited from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed into law on December 22, 2017,” stated Randy A. Ramlo, President and Chief Executive Officer. “The impact of this change in law added $0.86 per diluted share to net income during the fourth quarter. Removing the impact of the tax law change, net income was $0.95 per diluted share during the fourth quarter or an increase of $0.49 per diluted share as compared to the fourth quarter of the prior year. We attribute this increase to an improvement in our loss ratio due in part to an increase in prior accident year favorable reserve development and a decrease in commercial auto and commercial property losses.”
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(1) Consolidated Financial Results includes results from both continuing and discontinued operations, unless otherwise noted.
(2) Per share amounts are after tax.
(3) Adjusted operating income is a commonly used non-GAAP financial measure of net income excluding realized investment gains and losses and related federal income taxes. Management evaluates this measure and ratios derived from this measure and the Company provides this information to investors because we believe it better represents the normal, ongoing performance of our business. See Definitions of Non-GAAP Information and Reconciliations to Comparable GAAP Measures for a reconciliation of adjusted operating income to net income.
(4) Return on equity is calculated by dividing annualized net income by average year-to-date equity.
“We are beginning to see improvements in our core loss ratio due to the many initiatives we have underway, which we believe has led to a decrease in commercial auto losses in the fourth quarter,” continued Ramlo. “Although we believe we are making progress, we will continue with the profit initiatives underway and continue to aggressively seek rate increases, increase pricing and premiums until we improve our auto lines to an acceptable level of profitability.”Net premiums earned increased 2.6 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively, in the fourth quarter and full year 2017 as compared to the same periods of 2016. Total revenues were flat in the fourth quarter and increased 2.8 percent for the full year 2017 as compared to the same periods of 2016.The Company recognized consolidated net realized investment gains of $1.1 million and $8.1 million, respectively, for the fourth quarter and full year 2017 compared to net realized investment losses of $0.1 million and gains of $6.1 million, respectively, for the fourth quarter and full year 2016.Consolidated net investment income was $25.1 million for the fourth quarter 2017 and $100.9 million for the full year 2017 with decreases of 24.8 percent for the quarter and 5.5 percent for the full year, compared to net investment income of $33.4 million and $106.8 million, respectively, for the fourth quarter and full year 2016. The decrease in net investment income for the quarter was driven by the change in the value of our investments in limited liability partnerships and not due to a change in our investment philosophy. The valuation of these investments in limited liability partnerships varies from period to period due to current equity market conditions, specifically related to financial institutions. The decrease in net investment income for 2017 compared to 2016 was primarily driven by a change in the valuation of our investments in limited liability partnerships. Consolidated net unrealized investment gains, net of tax, totaled $214.9 million as of December 31, 2017, an increase of $81.0 million or 60.5 percent, compared to December 31, 2016. The increase in net unrealized investment gains is primarily the result of a decrease in interest rates, which positively impacted the valuation of our fixed maturity security portfolio during 2017 and an increase in the fair value of our equity security portfolio. Our net unrealized investment gains also increased due to the decrease in the tax rate from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Tax Act”) enactment.Total consolidated assets as of December 31, 2017 were $4.2 billion, which included $3.4 billion of invested assets. The Company's book value was $39.06 per share, which is an increase of $2.02 per share or 5.5 percent from December 31, 2016. The increase is primarily attributed to full year net income of $51.0 million and an increase in net unrealized investment gains of $81.0 million, net of tax, both offset by, the payment of stockholder dividends of $27.3 million, the change in benefits and the valuation of our post retirement benefit obligations of $21.7 million and share repurchases of $29.8 million.Property and Casualty InsuranceNet income for the property and casualty insurance business, our continuing operations, including net realized investment gains and losses, totaled $45.3 million ($1.78 per diluted share) for the fourth quarter, compared to net income of $12.0 million ($0.46 per diluted share) for the fourth quarter of 2016. The increase in net income is due to an improvement in our loss ratio primarily due to an increase in prior accident year favorable reserve development, a decrease in commercial auto and commercial property losses and the one-time benefit of $0.86 from the Tax Act enactment. The entire one-time benefit from the Tax Act enactment is included in our continuing operations results.For the full year, net income totaled $44.9 million ($1.75 per diluted share), compared to net income of $49.1 million ($1.90 per diluted share) for the full year 2016. The decrease in net income is primarily due to an increase in severity of commercial auto losses in the first three quarters of 2017 and an increase in catastrophe losses, both partially offset by the one-time benefit of $0.86 from the Tax Act enactment.Net premiums earned increased 6.5 percent to $260.1 million for the fourth quarter, compared to $244.2 million in the fourth quarter 2016. For the full year, net premiums earned increased 6.6 percent to $997.5 million, compared to $936.1 million in 2016, primarily due to organic growth and geographical expansion. The average renewal pricing change for commercial lines increased by low-single digits, primarily driven by an increase in commercial auto pricing. Filed commercial auto rate increases processed during the quarter averaged in the low double digits and commercial property increases averaged in the mid single digits.  Filed workers compensation rate decreases averaged in the mid single digits. Personal lines renewal pricing increased with average percentage increases in the low-single digits and filed rate increases processed during the quarter averaged in the mid single digits.Pre-tax catastrophe losses totaled $5.3 million ($0.13 per share after tax) and $74.0 million ($1.88 per share after tax) for the three- and twelve-month periods ended December 31, 2017, respectively, compared to $8.8 million ($0.22 per share after tax) and $61.2 million ($1.54 per share after tax) for the same periods in 2016.“Catastrophe losses for the fourth quarter added 2.0 percentage points to the combined ratio, which is below our 10-year historical catastrophe load of 6.0 percentage points for the fourth quarter,” stated Ramlo. “For the full year 2017, the catastrophe losses were within our expectations and comparable to our 10-year historical catastrophe load in spite of the impact of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the California wildfires. In 2017, catastrophe losses adding 7.4 percentage points to the combined ratio, compared to our 10-year historical catastrophe load of 7.3 percentage points.”Reserve developmentThe property and casualty insurance business experienced $16.3 million and $54.3 million of favorable reserve development in our net reserves for prior accident years during the three- and twelve-month periods ended December 31, 2017, respectively, compared to $4.2 million and $31.2 million of favorable reserve development in the same periods of 2016. The increase in favorable development in 2017 as compared to 2016 was primarily driven by reserve releases in other liability and workers compensation lines of business. Development amounts can vary significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year depending on a number of factors, including the number of claims settled and the settlement terms. At December 31, 2017, our total reserves were within our actuarial estimates.GAAP combined ratioThe GAAP combined ratio decreased 8.8 percentage points to 93.8 percent for the fourth quarter 2017, compared to 102.6 percent for the fourth quarter of 2016 primarily due to an improvement in our loss ratio offset slightly by an increase in our expense ratio. The improvement in our loss ratio was driven by an increase in favorable prior accident year reserve development, primarily in commercial fire and allied, commercial auto and workers compensation lines of business and to a lesser extent, a decrease in catastrophe losses. Removing the impact of these two items, our core loss ratio improved 5.7 percentage points as compared to prior year fourth quarter primarily due to a decrease in severity of commercial auto losses and a decrease in losses in commercial fire and allied.For the year ended December 31, 2017, the combined ratio increased by 3.7 percentage points to 104.0 percent as compared to 100.3 percent for the same period of 2016. The deterioration in our combined ratio for the full year 2017 was in part due to a 4.3 percentage point deterioration in our core loss ratio primarily due to a increase in losses in our commercial auto and personal auto lines of business.    Expense LevelsThe expense ratio for the fourth quarter 2017 was 33.3 percentage points, compared to 30.2 percentage points for the fourth quarter of 2016. For the full year, the expense ratio was 31.2 percentage points, compared to 30.6 percentage points for 2016.“Our expense ratio increased this quarter and year primarily due to a deterioration in the profitability of the auto lines of business, which accelerates the amortization of our deferred acquisition costs, partially offset by a decrease in post-retirement benefit expenses” commented Ramlo. “Despite the increase this year, our expense ratio continues to meet our expectations at around 31.0 percentage points.”Life Insurance BusinessOn September 18, 2017, the Company signed a definitive agreement to sell its subsidiary, United Life Insurance Company, to Kuvare US Holdings. As a result, our life insurance business is presented as discontinued operations in this press release. The sale is expected to close in the first half of 2018, subject to customary conditions, including regulatory approval.Net income for the life insurance business totaled $0.7 million ($0.03 per share) and $6.2 million ($0.24 per share) in the three- and twelve-month periods ended December 31, 2017, respectively, compared to a net loss of $40.0 thousand ($0.00 per share) and net income of $0.8 million ($0.03 per share), respectively, for the same periods of 2016. The change in net income in both the fourth quarter and year-to-date was primarily due to a smaller increase in the liability for future benefits and a decrease in underwriting expenses and offset by a decrease in net premiums earned and an increase in losses and loss settlement expenses. The decrease in underwriting expenses was due to a decrease in commissions paid from lower sales of single premium whole life policies, which was anticipated due to strategic changes made at the beginning of 2017 to increase profitability through pricing changes and restructuring of our commissions on these products. Also impacting the results was an increase in death benefits paid compared to the same periods in the prior year.Capital ManagementDuring the fourth quarter, we declared and paid a $0.28 per share cash dividend to stockholders of record as of December 1, 2017. We have paid a quarterly dividend every quarter since March 1968.Under our share repurchase program, we may purchase United Fire common stock from time to time on the open market or through privately negotiated transactions. The amount and timing of any purchases are at management's discretion and depend upon a number of factors, including the share price, general economic and market conditions, and corporate and regulatory requirements. We are authorized by our Board of Directors to purchase an additional 2,236,572 shares of common stock under our share repurchase program, which expires in August 2018. During the fourth quarter, we did not repurchase any shares of our common stock. In the year ended December 31, 2017, we purchased 701,899 shares of our common stock for $29.8 million, at an average cost of $42.43 per share. Earnings Call Access InformationAn earnings call will be held at 9:00 a.m. Central Time on February 14, 2018 to allow securities analysts, shareholders and other interested parties the opportunity to hear management discuss the Company's fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2017 results.Teleconference: Dial-in information for the call is toll-free 1-844-492-3723. The event will be archived and available for digital replay through February 28, 2018. The replay access information is toll-free 1-877-344-7529; conference ID no. 10115522.Webcast: An audio webcast of the teleconference can be accessed at the Company's investor relations page at http://ir.unitedfiregroup.com/event or http://services.choruscall.com/links/ufcs180214. The archived audio webcast will be available until February 28, 2018.Transcript: A transcript of the teleconference will be available on the Company's website soon after the completion of the teleconference.About UFGFounded in 1946 as United Fire & Casualty Company, UFG, through its insurance company subsidiaries, is engaged in the business of writing property and casualty insurance and life insurance and selling annuities.Through our subsidiaries, we are licensed as a property and casualty insurer in 46 states, plus the District of Columbia, and we are represented by approximately 1,200 independent agencies. A.M. Best Company assigns a rating of “A” (Excellent) for members of the United Fire & Casualty Group.Our subsidiary, United Life Insurance Company, is licensed in 37 states, represented by approximately 1,600 independent life agencies and rated “A-” (Excellent) by A.M. Best Company.For more information about United Fire Group, Inc. visit www.ufginsurance.com or contact:Randy Patten, AVP of Finance and Investor Relations, 319-286-2537 or [email protected]Disclosure of Forward-Looking StatementsThis release may contain forward-looking statements about our operations, anticipated performance and other similar matters. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides a safe harbor under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements are not historical facts and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ from those expected and/or projected. Such forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections about our company, the industry in which we operate, and beliefs and assumptions made by management. Words such as “expect(s),” “anticipate(s),” “intends(s),” “plan(s),” “believe(s)” “continue(s),” “seek(s),” “estimate(s),” “goal(s),” “remain optimistic,” “target(s),” “forecast(s),” “project(s),” “predict(s),” “should,” “could,” “may,” “will,” “might,” “hope,” “can” and other words and terms of similar meaning or expression in connection with a discussion of future operations, financial performance or financial condition, are intended to identify forward-looking statements. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are difficult to predict. Therefore, actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed in such forward-looking statements. Information concerning factors that could cause actual outcomes and results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements is contained in Part I, Item 1A “Risk Factors” of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2016, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on February 28, 2017. The risks identified in our Form 10-K are representative of the risks, uncertainties, and assumptions that could cause actual outcomes and results to differ materially from what is expressed in the forward-looking statements. In addition, we can provide no assurance of the satisfaction of the conditions precedent to the consummation of the sale of our life insurance subsidiary, including the receipt of regulatory approval. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this release or as of the date they are made. Except as required under the federal securities laws and the rules and regulations of the SEC, we do not have any intention or obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.Definitions of Non-GAAP Information and Reconciliations to Comparable GAAP MeasuresThe Company prepares its public financial statements in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”). Management also uses certain non-GAAP measures to evaluate its operations and profitability. As further explained below, management believes that disclosure of certain non-GAAP financial measures enhances investor understanding of our financial performance. Non-GAAP financial measures disclosed in this report include: net income per diluted share excluding the impact of the Tax Act, adjusted operating income and net premiums written. The Company has provided the following definitions and reconciliations of the non-GAAP financial measures:Adjusted operating income: Adjusted operating income is calculated by excluding net realized investment gains and losses after applicable federal and state income taxes from net income. Management believes adjusted operating income is a meaningful measure for evaluating insurance company performance. Investors and equity analysts who invest and report on the insurance industry and the Company generally focus on this metric in their analyses because it represents the results of the Company's normal, ongoing performance. The Company recognizes that adjusted operating income is not a substitute for measuring GAAP net income, but believes it is a useful supplement to GAAP information.NM=Not meaningfulNet premiums written: While not a substitute for any GAAP measure of performance, net premiums written is frequently used by industry analysts and other recognized reporting sources to facilitate comparisons of the performance of insurance companies. Net premiums written are the amount charged for insurance policy contracts issued and recognized on an annualized basis at the effective date of the policy. Management believes net premiums written are a meaningful measure for evaluating insurance company sales performance and geographical expansion efforts. Net premiums written for an insurance company consists of direct premiums written and reinsurance assumed, less reinsurance ceded. Net premiums earned is calculated on a pro rata basis over the terms of the respective policies. Unearned premium reserves are established for the portion of premiums written applicable to the unexpired term of insurance policy in force. The difference between net premiums earned and net premiums written is the change in unearned premiums and change in prepaid reinsurance premiums.
Supplemental TablesNM=Not meaningful
(1) Adjusted operating income is an non-GAAP financial measure of net income. See Definitions of Non-GAAP Information and Reconciliations to Comparable GAAP Measures for a reconciliation of adjusted operating income to net income.


(1) On September 18, 2017, the Company signed a definitive agreement to sell its subsidiary, United Life Insurance Company, to Kuvare US Holdings. As a result, our life insurance business is presented as discontinued operations in this table. The sale is expected to close in the first half of 2018, subject to customary conditions, including regulatory approval.(1) Net premiums written is a non-GAAP financial measure of net premiums earned. See Definitions of Non-GAAP Information and Reconciliations to Comparable GAAP Measures for a reconciliation of net premiums written to net earned premiums.
(2) Commercial lines “Other liability” is business insurance covering bodily injury and property damage arising from general business operations, accidents on the insured’s premises and products manufactured or sold.
(3) Commercial lines “Fire and allied lines” includes fire, allied lines, commercial multiple peril and inland marine.
(4) Personal lines “Fire and allied lines” includes fire, allied lines, homeowners and inland marine.

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About the Author: Marcus Suban

Marcus is a reporter on the Political Capital team focusing on money in politics. Before joining Canadian Business Tribune, he worked as a researcher and writer for the Institute for Northern Studies at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay Ontario and as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and Democracy,The Huffington Post, Salon, Truthout and VICE.com.

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