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Loews Corp  (NYSE:L)
Q3 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Nov. 05, 2018, 11:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning, my name is Samantha and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Loews Corporation Q3 Earnings Conference Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers' remarks there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions)

I would now like to turn the call over to Mary Skafidas. Please go ahead.

Mary Skafidas -- Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Thank you, Samantha. Good morning everyone, and welcome to Loews Corporation third quarter earnings conference call. A copy of our earnings release, earnings supplement and company overview may be found on our website loews.com. On the call this morning, we have our Chief Executive Officer, Jim Tisch and our Chief Financial Officer, David Edelson. Following our prepared remarks this morning, we will have a question-and-answer session.

Before we begin, however, I will remind you that this conference call might include statements that are forward-looking in nature. Actual results achieved by the Company may differ materially from those made or implied in any forward-looking statements due to a wide range of risks and uncertainties, including those set forth in our SEC filings. Forward-looking statements reflect circumstances at the time they are made. The Company expressly disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. This disclaimer is only a brief summary of the Company's statutory forward-looking statements disclaimer, which is included in the Company's filings with the SEC.

During the call today we might also discuss non-GAAP financial measures. Please refer to our security filings and earnings supplement for reconciliation to the most comparable GAAP measures.

In a few moments, our Chief Financial Officer David Edelson, will walk you through the key drivers for the quarter. Before he does, Jim Tisch, our CEO, will kick off the call. Jim, over to you.

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Mary. Today, I'd like to talk briefly about two things; CNA and share repurchases. CNA delivered another good quarter, thanks to strong operational results and more normalized catastrophe losses. Our good quarterly results are always welcome. At Loews we understand that there are a number of factors that can positively or negatively impact earnings, and for that reason, we focus on making decisions and running businesses for the long term and we continue to see positive outcomes from some of the decisions made over the past decade at CNA.

CNA has worked hard to strengthen its underwriting talent, improve its technology -- its technology infrastructure and expand its distribution network, all while maintaining its fortress balance sheet. CNA has also actively managed the risk from its run-off Long Term Care segment. On their earnings call earlier this morning, the company's CEO, Dino Robusto and CFO, James Anderson, walked shareholders through additional details about their Long Term Care book of business. CNA's proactive management of this business together with its reserve unlocking at year-end 2015, has led to several years of stable results and at Loews, we feel great about how they've handled it.

Let me hit some of the highlights that Dino and James talked about. First, the Long Term Care business is a closed book of business that's in run-off mode. CNA has not written a new individual long-term care policy since 2003, and since 2015 the number of individual policyholders has decreased by 15%. Also around 2003, CNA stopped accepting new group long-term care policies. The active lives in these group policies have declined 29% since the end of 2015. Additionally, CNA's Long Term Care book of business is mature. The company has processed more than 100,000 claims, which have yielded solid data that CNA is using to model reserves for the segment going forward. We are confident that CNA's Long Term Care reserves are built on prudent assumptions. For example, CNA's reserves assume only rate increases that CNA has already filed, but have not yet been approved or rate increases that the company plans to file in the near future as part of the current rate increase program. Beyond that, no other rate increases are assumed.

At Loews, we are very interested in CNA's Long Term Care book of business and their active management of it. We engage with CNA regularly about the company's strategic direction for the Long Term Care segment, as well as its reserves and we feel confident that CNA is adequately reserved and is managing the business appropriately. And if you need more proof of how we feel about CNA, look no further than our share repurchases. Since the beginning of 2014, we have purchased about 74 million shares of Loews stock at a total cost of $3.2 billion fully cognizant of CNA's Long Term Care exposure. As our largest subsidiary, CNA makes up a significant portion of the value of each Loews common share, so our buybacks underscore the confidence we feel in our insurance subsidiary's long-term value creation power. Year-to-date, we've repurchased 5.5% of our outstanding common stock or more than 18 million shares at a total cost of about $920 million.

As long-term listeners to this call, you all know at Loews, we don't have an automatic share repurchase program, buying shares no matter what. We are very sensitive to the price we pay for anything especially our shares. When we can repurchase Loews' shares at below our view of their intrinsic value, we feel that's a great use of our cash. Share buybacks remain one of the most effective ways to invest in our business, while also rewarding long-term holders of the stock. Rather than complain about the prices of Loews and CNA, we recognize the gift that the markets are giving us and we buy our shares.

Over to you, David.

David B. Edelson -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Jim and good morning. For the third quarter, Loews reported net income of $278 million or $0.88 per share, up from $157 million or $0.46 per share in last year's third quarter. Our EPS comparison benefited from share repurchase activity over the past 12 months. Page 13 of our earnings supplement sets forth the key quarterly drivers. A quick summary of the quarter.

CNA accounted for the bulk of our year-over-year net income improvement as lower catastrophe losses and continued strong underlying underwriting income drove the results. Boardwalk and Loews Hotels also posted favorable year-over-year contributions. Offsetting these increases were lower contributions from Diamond Offshore and the parent company investment portfolio. As in Q1 and Q2, the lower corporate tax rate benefited our year-over-year after-tax results.

Now for more detail. CNA's after-tax earnings contribution was $300 million, up $170 million from Q3 2017. P&C underwriting income drove the increase. CNA's third quarter combined ratio improved almost 10 points from 103.7 in 2017 to 94.2 in 2018, translating into a $161 million increase in pre-tax P&C underwriting income at CNA. Lower catastrophe losses at CNA drove the year-over-year underwriting improvement. In 2017, CNA had pre-tax catastrophe losses of $269 million or 16.5 points versus only $46 million or 2.6 points in this year's third quarter.

Catastrophe losses reduced Loews' third quarter net income by $32 million this year versus $170 million last year. CNA booked favorable prior-year development in both Q3 2018 and Q3 2017, although the amount of favorable development was less this year than last, partially offsetting the earnings impact of the substantially lower catastrophe losses. CNA's underlying combined ratio of 94.8, which excludes cats and prior-year development was essentially in line with last year's third quarter.

Other factors favorably impacting CNA's year-over-year comparison were higher after-tax net investment income, the absence this year of last year's loss on the early redemption of debt, and higher income in the Life & Group segment, which includes Long Term Care. CNA has disclosed more information about its Long Term Care business in its quarterly earnings presentation, which can be found on its IR website. Please note that CNA completed its Long Term Care reserve review in Q3, and intends to shift its reserve to the third quarter going forward. The company's GAAP LTC reserve, which totaled just under $12 billion are split approximately 77:23 [ph] between reserves for future policy benefits, also known as active life reserves and claims reserves. This year's review resulted in a modest favorable release from its claims reserve and no unlocking of its active life reserves.

Turning to Diamond Offshore. Diamond contributed a net loss of $27 million in Q3 2018 as compared to net income of $6 million last year, reflecting the continued decline in drilling activity and average day rate for Diamond's fleet. Contract drilling revenues declined 21% versus only a 5% decline in contract drilling costs. Revenue earning days and average daily revenue were both down as the company experienced contract expirations, as well as rigs rolling to lower day rates. Unusual items affected Diamond's earnings in both years' third quarters. Diamond's 2018 contribution was reduced by $8 million because of a legal settlement. Last year, a loss on the early retirement of debt reduced our earnings by $11 million. Diamond continues to focus on ensuring it has ample liquidity during this extended market trough. At the beginning of October, Diamond executed a new five-year, $950 million revolving credit facility. The new revolver is in addition to Diamond's existing revolver, which was reduced to $325 million, a $100 million of which matures in 2019 and the remainder in the fourth quarter of 2020. Currently both of the facilities remain undrawn.

Boardwalk contributed $28 million to our net income, up from $17 million last year. The year-over-year comparison was affected by Loews' 100% ownership of Boardwalk in Q3 2018 versus 51% last year. Had Loews owned 100% of Boardwalk in last year's third quarter, net income contribution would have declined year-over-year even with the reduction in the corporate tax rate. The decline in profitability stemmed from margin compression, which caused Boardwalk's pre-tax income to drop from $69 million to $38 million in Q3 2018. The company experienced a $17 million decrease in net operating revenues, a $12 million increase in operating expenses, and a slight increase in interest expense. The revenue decline was driven by contract expirations, contract renewals at lower rates, contract restructurings, and lower parking and lending and storage results. Partially offsetting these declines were revenues generated by growth projects and higher system utilization. Boardwalk's operating expenses increased because of depreciation property taxes and employee-related costs.

Loews Hotels had a terrific third quarter. Its net income contribution was $11 million, up from $4 million in Q3 2017. Its adjusted EBITDA, which is reported and defined in our quarterly earnings supplement, rose nearly 17% from last year's third quarter to $49 million. Loews Miami Beach and Coronado were the main drivers of the improved performance. Continued earnings growth generated by the Universal Orlando joint venture was masked by costs associated with the opening of the 600-room Aventura Hotel during the third quarter.

Turning to the parent company. Pretax investment income was $5 million down $43 million from the prior-year's third quarter, driven by lower returns on equities and alternatives. The corporate tax rate differential between the two years benefited the year-over-year after-tax comparison. Corporate and other was consistent with the prior year on a pre-tax basis. The higher after-tax loss was solely attributable to the lower tax rate in Q3 2018. During Q3 2018, we received $111 million in dividends from our subsidiaries; $85 million from CNA and $26 million from Boardwalk.

We repurchased 1.8 million shares during the third quarter at an aggregate cost of $88 million. We purchased an additional 1 million shares since quarter-end for approximately $47 million. As Jim mentioned, we have repurchased 18.4 million shares during 2018 for about $923 million representing 5.5% of our shares outstanding at year-end 2017. Loews ended the quarter with $3.2 billion in cash and investments. As I stated last quarter, we are rebalancing our invested assets in light of the cash used to acquire the Boardwalk units. At quarter-end, cash and equivalents accounted for over 60% of the parent company portfolio.

Let me now turn it back to Mary.

Mary Skafidas -- Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Thank you, David. Samantha we'd like to open the call for questions. Can you provide participants with Instructions please?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Certainly. (Operator Instructions) And your first question comes from the line of Josh Shanker with Deutsche Bank.

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Good morning, everybody.

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

I wanted to bring back a question maybe I've asked you in private or maybe public in the past. Thoughts on another 10% of CNA being publicly traded and how liquidity impacts fair valuation for that company.

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

When we say another 10%, do --

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

More thereabout, thereabout. Not below 80% held by you guys.

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

You mean not selling shares down to 80%?

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Yes.

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

We're happy. We're very happy with our investment in CNA. We're buying in the shares of Loews -- for every share of Loews, there is more than 0.77 shares of CNA. So, for the life of me, I can't imagine why it is we should sell shares of CNA. We think Loews will keep --

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

You don't believe --

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

We think CNA is cheap.

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Okay. Do you think it might be able to more fully realize its valuation and if there was more liquidity?

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

The last sentence of my comments said that if the market isn't going to price our shares and CNA's shares accordingly, we'll just take the gift and buy in the shares. Listen, I would love for CNA to be at a size [ph] that reflects its true value. But as you know, I don't complain about it. We put our money where our mouth is instead.

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

And in terms of positioning the investment portfolio, do you have -- have some comments about any changes you might be making as we go into 2019?

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

So we're pleased with the increase in treasury rates. That should allow CNA to get a higher rate of return on money that it has to reinvest that is -- otherwise might have earlier this year, or over the past few years. In terms of equities, we're not making a big change to our portfolio now. As David has said, we have reduced our hedge fund portfolio somewhat, reflective of the fact -- of the fact that we have $3 billion to $3.5 billion of investment assets rather than $5 billion. And likewise, there's been a slight reduction of hedge funds at CNA, but otherwise, there has been no major moves in the portfolios. One of the thing that's happened is that as a result of the tax bill, we -- at CNA, they've begun to reduce their municipal bond portfolio and that's because with a 35% tax rate, munis had a lot more value to CNA than when the corporate tax rate is 21%.

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

That was my follow-up question. I think about three quarters ago, you said there were munis is available in the market at equivalent yields to other stuff that you might buy and so even though they weren't as tax efficient as they used to be, that, that they were still valuable. Has the market become more rational and those opportunities have gone away?

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. And when you think about it, CNA has a 21% tax rate. Individuals in New York State, they have close to a 50% tax rate. So, munis are much more valuable to individuals than they are to corporations.

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

All right. Well, thank you very much for all the answers.

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

That concludes the Q&A portion of the call. I will now turn the call back over to Mary.

Mary Skafidas -- Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Great. Thanks Samantha, and thanks all of you for your continued interest. A replay will be available on our website loews.com in approximately two hours. That concludes the Loews call for today.

Operator

This does conclude today's conference call. You may now disconnect your lines.

Duration: 21 minutes

Call participants:

Mary Skafidas -- Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

James S. Tisch -- Office of the President, President and Chief Executive Officer

David B. Edelson -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Joshua Shanker -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

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