United Fire Posts Fourth-Quarter Loss on Sandy Claims

By George Ford, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Superstorm Sandy pounded United Fire Group with $25 million of claims, saddling the company with a loss of more than $2 million at the end of last year.

The Cedar Rapids-based insurance holding company posted a $2.4 million loss, or 10 cents per share, for the quarter that ended on Dec. 31, compared with a net profit of $16.9 million, or 66 cents per share, in the same period of 2011.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 11.4 percent to $213.3 million in the most recent quarter, from $191.6 million in the final three months of 2011.

For the year, United Fire recorded a net profit of $40.2 million, or $1.58 per share, compared with a net profit of $11,000 for the same period in 2011. Revenue rose 15.4 percent from $705 million in 2011 to $813.2 million in 2012.

Randy Ramlo, United Fire president and CEO, said the company on Sept. 30 was on track for a more normal catastrophe loss year, but that changed on Oct. 29 when the East Coast was slammed by Sandy.

"More than 2,750 claims have been filed as a result of the storm, representing $25 million ($20 million direct, $5 million assumed) of incurred losses," Ramlo said. "Our response teams were in the field immediately after the storm and remained until every claim with our company had been visited."

Ramlo said more than 83 percent of the claims have been settled and closed. He added that United Fire does not anticipate Sandy having any material negative effects on the company's 2013 results.

"We continue to see signs of improvement in the economy," he said. "Since the second half of 2011, we have experienced modest growth in premium audit collections, and that trend continued through the fourth quarter of 2012.

"Premium from policy changes declined slightly from the previous quarter, but remained positive, and the number of out-of-business policy cancellations varied by region, but remained unchanged overall."

Ramlo said integration of Mercer Insurance Group continues to move forward. The company remains on track to convert the East Coast claims processes onto the United Fire Group systems in the current quarter.
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