(Reuters) - Intact Financial Corp (IFC.TO), Canada's largest property and casualty insurer, reported a near-doubling in quarterly profit, driven by higher underwriting income as claims related to natural disasters fell.
The insurer said underwriting income jumped to C$216 million ($174 million) in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, also helped by lowers claims in its personal auto and commercial businesses.
Intact, the former Canadian insurance arm of Dutch financial group ING Groep ING.AS, said catastrophe losses fell by C$45 million from a year earlier when severe storms in the Greater Toronto area and Quebec hurt results.
The company, which sells insurance under banners such as Belair Direct and Grey Power, increased its quarterly dividend by 10 percent to 53 Canadian cents per share.
Intact said on Wednesday that its combined ratio improved to 88.2 percent from 96.3 percent. A ratio below 100 percent means the company is taking in more from premiums than it is paying out in claims and expenses.
The Toronto, Ontario-based company said industry premiums will grow at a low single digit rate. It did not give details.
While Intact has been snapping up the Canadian companies such as Jevco Insurance and Metro General Insurance Corp over the past few years, it forayed overseas last year when it took a minority position in a small insurance brokerage in Brazil.
Intact's net operating income rose to C$1.84 per share in the latest quarter, beating analysts' estimate of C$1.47, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company's net income rose to C$205 million, or C$1.52 per share, from C$107 million, or 77 Canadian cents per share.
Intact's shares had risen 29 percent in the last twelve months, up to Tuesday's close of C$86.71.
Reporting by Tanvi Mehta and Ashutosh Pandey in Bengaluru; Editing by Ted Kerr and Savio D'Souza