Mercury General Earnings Call Insights: Rate Filings and Investment Income

Mercury General Corporation (NYSE:MCY) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Rate Filings

Vincent DeAugustino – KBW: In the press release you mentioned Florida, New Jersey, reserves developing favorably and you just touched on it couple of minutes ago. I was just curious how did California do in the quarter and would it basically be flat on reserve development, just based on your comments about trends being consistent lately?

Gabriel Tirador – President and CEO: That’s correct California was pretty much flat.

Vincent DeAugustino – KBW: I know this is kind of hard to do, but as far as the rate filings that you have, for non-standard auto and the preferred. Do you have any sense of how that’s going through with department or is last time just with – I think it was about a year. Maybe it took to get approval should we expect something like that this time around or just thing seem to be expedited a little bit faster this time.

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Robert Houlihan – VP and Chief Product Officer: We’ve had some preliminary discussions with our cat auto filing for personal auto and we have as you know, as you may know there is an intervener on that filing. And we are having a three-way discussion between the department, the intervener and ourselves in about two weeks. I would think at that point in time we would know a lot better with timing of resolution on that. So we are making progress, but we really – because we don’t control all aspects of this, we really can’t predict an exact date but we have made some significant progress on the first three trials…

Gabriel Tirador – President and CEO: The cat part of the non-standard company.

Vincent DeAugustino – KBW: Then if you can track it all because we are hearing in industry there’s been a lot of benefit from unusually favorable non-cat weather such a thing exists. Is there anything that you could quantify as far as just a benefit from unusually favorable weather either inside of California or maybe to the point about the lines outside of California doing pretty well this quarter if there was any sort of one-off benefits there.

Gabriel Tirador – President and CEO: Well, a year ago I think we didn’t have any cats that at least last year was about, in this quarter we disclose about $1 million in Georgia, so it was a very light cat quarter. In California I think the weather was probably comparable to a year ago I mean we did have rain in California in the first quarter. So our biggest market here in California I don’t think that we benefited….

Robert Houlihan – VP and Chief Product Officer: Our frequency was essentially flat in California compared to a year ago. And I guess in general the weather was tended to be fairly favorable this quarter.

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Vincent DeAugustino – KBW: I guess just to be clear I was looking at more of the non-catastrophe weather. So I know in Georgia there was obviously some cat activity, but broadly speaking so far. If I am looking at storm served just other comments it seems to be more of the benefits coming from the non-catastrophe losses and so just to be clear would the…

Gabriel Tirador – President and CEO: Well I think in California as we mentioned we think that the frequency was relatively the same as a year ago and the weather I would say was comparable so I would say no to that outside of California there was probably some benefit with respect to lighter weather. But we don’t have any. We haven’t quantified that.

Investment Income

Alison Jacobowitz – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: I was wondering if you could talk about investment income a little bit. I know we always have these quarters where it goes up a little bit or down a little bit, but it does seem that the first quarter versus the fourth quarter is a notable drop off, also the tax rate if I am doing this right, went down a bit. So, I was just wondering if you could talk about that and how it might trend going forward?

Christopher Graves – VP and CIO: Well, as far as the trend going forward, that’s hard to make a call on because it’s always dependent upon interest rate since we are so fixed income sensitive. But we do continue to see redemptions on our callable municipal bonds and reinvesting those at market rates, which are below where they were held. It does continue to put forward pressure on the investment income. We did have a lot of cash last year and we have been soaking that up with other investments such as taxable corporate, which is why the reason you are seeing the tax rate creep. It was also pushed a lot more into equities over the past 12 months. But as far as forward-looking trends, I can tell you what is trying to maximize what is available to us.

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Gabriel Tirador – President and CEO: I think in the fourth quarter we may have had some special dividends.

Christopher Graves – VP and CIO: We did pick up special dividends…

Gabriel Tirador – President and CEO: We will take up some special dividends, so that’s why – if you are looking at it on a sequential basis, maybe that’s why, Alison.

A Closer Look: Mercury General Earnings Cheat Sheet>>