State Auto Financial reports fourth quarter and year end 2017 results

2018-02-20

  • Quarterly loss of $0.14 per share
  • Quarterly GAAP combined ratio of 100.9
  • Return on equity of (1.2)%
  • Book value per share of $20.76

COLUMBUS, OHIO - February 20, 2018 - State Auto Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:STFC) today reported a fourth quarter 2017 net loss of $5.8 million, or $0.14 per diluted share, versus net income of $32.5 million, or $0.77 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2016. Net loss from operations1 per diluted share for the fourth quarter 2017 was $0.46 versus net income from operations1 per diluted share of $0.46 for the same 2016 period.

For the year ended 2017, STFC had a net loss of $10.7 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, compared to net income of $21.0 million, or $0.50 per diluted share, for the same 2016 period.  Net loss from operations1 per diluted share for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017 was $1.26 versus net loss from operations1 per diluted share of $0.07 for the same 2016 period.

The fourth quarter and year ended 2017 net loss and net loss from operations included a charge of $36.4 million, or $0.86 per diluted share, related to the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA).

GAAP Operating Results


STFC's GAAP combined ratio for the fourth quarter 2017 was 100.9 compared to 101.3 for the same 2016 period. Catastrophe losses during the fourth quarter 2017 accounted for 2.6 points of the 62.9 total loss ratio points, or $8.3 million, versus 5.0 points of the total 68.6 loss ratio points, or $16.2 million, for the same period in 2016. Non-catastrophe losses during the fourth quarter 2017 included 3.7 points of favorable development relating to prior years, or $11.8 million, versus 1.9 points, or $6.3 million, for the same period in 2016. 

Net written premium for the fourth quarter of 2017 decreased 2.1% compared to the same period in 2016.  By segment, net written premium for personal increased 19.1% and commercial and specialty decreased 1.4% and 51.0%, respectively.  The personal segment increase was primarily due to rate actions taken to improve the profitability in personal auto and a higher level of new business policies for the fourth quarter 2017 compared to the fourth quarter 2016. The decrease in the commercial segment was primarily driven by actions taken to improve commercial auto profitability and a reduction in workers' compensation due to the softening market conditions during the fourth quarter 2017 compared to the fourth quarter 2016. The decline in the specialty segment was primarily due to our decision to exit specialty business.

STFC's GAAP combined ratio for the year ended 2017 was 107.7 compared to 106.2 for the same 2016 period. Catastrophe losses increased the loss ratio for the year ended 2017 by 9.7 points, or $124.0 million, compared to 6.3 points, or $81.6 million for the year ended 2016. Non-catastrophe losses for the year ended 2017 included 3.5 points of favorable development relating to prior years, or $44.6 million, versus 2.2 points of adverse development, or $28.4 million, for the same period in 2016.

Net written premium for the year ended 2017 decreased 1.9% compared to the same 2016 period.  By segment, net written premium for personal increased 5.7% and commercial and specialty decreased 1.3% and 19.7%, respectively. The segment trends were due to the same factors discussed above. 

Personal and Commercial Statutory Operating Results


STFC previously announced its decision to exit the specialty insurance segment and identified its continuing operations as the personal and commercial insurance segments. The statutory personal and commercial combined ratio2 for the fourth quarter 2017 was 97.1 compared to 96.7 for the same 2016 period. Catastrophe losses during the fourth quarter 2017 accounted for 0.4 points of the 59.2 total loss ratio points, or $1.1 million, versus 3.6 points of the total 63.9 points or $9.3 million for the same period in 2016. Non-catastrophe losses during the fourth quarter 2017 included 5.2 points of favorable development relating to prior years, or $13.7 million, versus 3.0 points or $7.8 million, for the same period in 2016.

The statutory personal and commercial combined ratio2 for the year ended 2017 was 102.3 compared to 104.5 for the same 2016 period. Catastrophe losses increased the loss ratio for the year ended 2017 by 6.8 points, or $70.1 million, compared to 7.0 points, or $74.1 million for the year ended 2016. Non-catastrophe losses for the year ended 2017 included 4.7 points of favorable development relating to prior years, or $48.8 million, versus adverse development of 0.6 points or $6.8 million, for the same period in 2016.

Book Value and Return on Equity


STFC's book value was $20.76 per share as of Dec. 31, 2017, a decrease of $0.52 per share from STFC's book value on Sept. 30, 2017. The decrease was primarily driven by the revaluation of our net deferred tax asset due to the enactment of the TCJA. Return on stockholders' equity for the twelve months ended December 31, 2017, was (1.2)% compared to 2.4% for the twelve months ended December 31, 2016.

STFC's Chairman, President and CEO Mike LaRocco commented on the quarter and year as follows:

"2017 was the year in which State Auto's turnaround began to take hold. We delivered profitable fourth quarter results in our personal and commercial lines of business, with a statutory combined ratio of 97.1. Loss ratios in personal and commercial auto continued to improve as a result of actions we've taken around rates, underwriting and claims handling practices. These efforts take time to earn out in the numbers, but we have the processes and people in place to maintain our focus on improving profitability.

"Retention in our personal auto and homeowners lines declined as a result of the rate actions, but we know we can't afford to knowingly write risks at an unprofitable rate. And while our loss ratio improved in our largest line, personal auto, our expense ratio was elevated in the fourth quarter due to continued investment in our digital technology platform and foundation and timing and changes in our agent bonus compensation plan.

"Our technology investment is critical if we're to become more efficient as we grow profitably. In the fourth quarter, we continued the rollout of State Auto Connect for personal lines and successfully rolled out State Auto Connect for our business owners policy (BOP) and commercial auto in four states. Our decision to go completely digital is paying off, with approximately a 37% increase in new business and record quote volumes for the year in our personal lines. For the first time in eight years, we grew the number of homeowners policies written, and we ended 2017 with four straight months of auto policy count growth.

"In our continuing businesses the full year statutory combined ratio was 102.3. In late 2017, we made the tough call to exit the specialty segment. I'm pleased to say we've made progress toward completing agreements to exit all our lines except E&S property, which we placed in run-off in November.

"We accomplished a great deal in 2017, and I'm very proud of our team's efforts that moved us even closer to delivering profitable growth for our policyholders and shareholders."

About State Auto Financial Corporation


State Auto Financial Corporation, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, is a super regional property and casualty insurance holding company and is proud to be a Trusted Choice® company partner. STFC stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, which represents the top fourth of all NASDAQ listed companies.

The insurance subsidiaries of State Auto Financial Corporation are part of the State Auto Group. The State Auto Group markets its insurance products throughout the United States, through independent insurance agencies, which include retail agencies and wholesale brokers. The State Auto Group is rated A- (Excellent) by the A.M. Best Company and includes State Automobile Mutual, State Auto Property & Casualty, State Auto Ohio, State Auto Wisconsin, Milbank, Meridian Security, Patrons Mutual, Rockhill Insurance, Plaza Insurance, American Compensation and Bloomington Compensation. Additional information on State Auto Financial Corporation and the State Auto Insurance Companies can be found online at http://www.StateAuto.com/STFC.

1
Net income (loss) from operations, a non-GAAP financial measure which management believes is informative to Company management and investors, differs from GAAP net income (loss) only by the exclusion of realized capital gains and (losses), net of applicable taxes, on investment activity for the periods being reported.  For STFC, this amounted to income of $0.32 per diluted share for the fourth quarter 2017 and income of $1.01 year to date 2017 versus income of $0.31 per diluted share for the fourth quarter 2016 and income of $0.57 year to date 2016.

The statutory personal and commercial combined ratio is a measure used by management to evaluate STFC's operating performance for its ongoing operations. Details behind the compilation of these results can be found on page 19 of this release.

STFC has scheduled a conference call with interested investors for Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the Company's fourth quarter 2017 performance. Live and archived broadcasts of the call can be accessed at http://www.StateAuto.com/STFC. A replay of the call can be heard beginning at 2 p.m., Feb. 20, by calling 855-859-2056, conference ID 51534854. Supplemental schedules detailing the Company's fourth quarter 2017 financial, sales and underwriting results are made available on http://www.StateAuto.com/STFC prior to the conference call.

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Except for historical information, all other information in this news release consists of forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected, anticipated or implied. The most significant of these uncertainties are described in State Auto Financial's Form 10-K and Form 10-Q reports and exhibits to those reports, and include (but are not limited to) legislative changes at both the state and federal level, state and federal regulatory rule making promulgations and adjudications, class action litigation involving the insurance industry and judicial decisions affecting claims, policy coverages and the general costs of doing business, the impact of competition on products and pricing, inflation in the costs of the products and services insurance pays for, product development, geographic spread of risk, weather and weather-related events, and other types of catastrophic events. State Auto Financial undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements.


CONTACTS

Media contact: Kyle Anderson, Kyle.Anderson@StateAuto.com, 614-917-5497
Investor contact: Tara Shull, Tara.Shull@StateAuto.com, 614-917-4478