Reinsurers have had a tough year.
That would ordinarily be enough in its own right to create tough times for RenaissanceRe
In this year's fourth quarter, the company was still in the process of crawling out of the rubble. Not too surprisingly, then, the operating results look horrible -- an operating loss of nearly $207 million versus a profit of nearly $189 million a year ago. Losses related to Hurricane Wilma were even worse than initially projected -- $314 million versus the high-end company estimate of $300 million -- and the overall combined ratio was a gut-wrenching 183%.
The crystal ball is a bit cloudy. The company experienced very strong net premium results for the quarter, even if a lot of that performance was from reinstatement. And for the year as a whole, management guided toward 15% growth for both managed catastrophe premiums and individual risk premiums.
On the other hand, management's comments on pricing suggest to me that the post-hurricane market hasn't firmed up quite as much as some people had hoped. And let's not forget that we could always be in for yet another nasty storm season.
This company is a tougher one than average to figure out. It had a good reputation for loss avoidance in the past. But is that still the case? And what about the basically forced transition to new management? And is capital really as adequate as the company says it is? And so on and so forth.
I'm not going to pay up for a stock with a fair bit of risk to it -- even if there is a better-than-average chance that it will continue to produce above-industry financial returns. After all, there are plenty of fish in the insurance sea -- from turnarounds like AIG
For more Foolish thoughts on insurance:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).