* Q4 EPS C$0.81 vs loss/shr C$0.53 yr ago
* Operating income up 31 pct
* Increases quarterly dividend by 6.25 pct
* Says to buy back 5 pct of shares (Adds conference call details, updates share movement) BANGALORE, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Canadian home and auto insurer Intact Financial Corp (IFC.TO) posted a fourth-quarter profit, helped by strong underwriting performance in personal insurance, and increased quarterly dividend by about 6 percent, sending its shares to a 52-week high.
The company, which also announced plans to buy back about 5 percent of its shares, said its industry outlook for 2010 remained unchanged with pricing environment unfolding as per its expectations.
“In automobile insurance, we expect the rates will continue to rise in Ontario until the reforms, as the costs keeps increasing... while we expect premiums and other costs to be stable in other jurisdictions,” Chief Executive Charles Brindamour said on a conference call.
Intact, which rebranded itself after being spun off by its Dutch parent ING Groep NV ING.AS last year, however, warned that unpredictability of weather patterns and the high cost of medical claims in Ontario may continue to impact the industry’s performance in the short term.
The CEO also said that he expects the pricing environment in commercial lines will improve in number of regions as well as unprofitable segments in 2010.
Intact’s underwriting income increased to C$56.0 million, from C$11.0 million, a year ago.
For the fourth quarter, the company reported a net income of C$96.7 million ($92.71 million), or 81 Canadian cents a share, compared with a loss of C$64.1 million, or 53 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.
Operating income rose nearly 31 percent to C$98.1 million, or 82 Canadian cents a share.
Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 60 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Shares of the company were up C$1.80, or about 5 percent at C$40.88 Wednesday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They hit a 52-week high of C$41.25 earlier in the day. ($1=1.043 Canadian Dollar) (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar and Ashutosh Joshi in Bangalore; Editing by Aradhana Aravindan, Jarshad Kakkrakandy)