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Press release from PR Newswire

Stewart Reports Earnings per Share of $0.45 for the Second Quarter 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stewart Reports Earnings per Share of $0.45 for the Second Quarter 201007:00 EDT Thursday, July 29, 2010HOUSTON, July 29 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Stewart Information Services Corporation (NYSE: STC) reported second quarter earnings per diluted share of $0.45 compared to a loss of $1.14 per diluted share in the second quarter 2009.  Year-to-date the loss per diluted share was $1.07 in 2010 compared to a loss per diluted share of $3.21 in the first half of 2009.  Contributing to our improvement in results for the second quarter of 2010 were profits from our direct operations which includes our lender services business and a $28.4 million decrease in charges attributable to title losses.  Profits before taxes and noncontrolling interests for the quarter increased from a loss of $16.1 million in the prior year quarter to a profit of $18.0 million, an improvement of $34.1 million on a $10.7 million increase in revenues ($3.2 million excluding the gains in the second quarter 2010 described below).  We have had no reserve strengthening charges for the last three quarters and agency defalcation losses greater than $1 million were greatly reduced to four reported in the last four quarters (averaging less than $2 million each).  Employee and other operating costs also contributed to the improvement in earnings compared to the prior year, declining 3.0 percent and falling from 45.6 percent of operating revenues to 43.7 percent.Second QuarterSix Months2010 (a)2009 (b)2010 (a)2009 (b)Total revenues$441.5$430.8$792.9$744.2Pretax earnings (loss) before noncontrolling interests18.0(16.1)(11.8)(50.5)Income tax expense (c)5.91.74.33.5Net earnings (loss) attributable to Stewart9.4(20.6)(19.5)(58.2)Net earnings (loss) per diluted share attributable to Stewart0.45(1.14)(1.07)(3.21)(a)  Operating profits in the second quarter of 2010 included pretax gains of $6.3 million primarily relating to the monetization of internally developed software and $1.2 million relating to the buyout of a royalty agreement, as well as a pretax credit of $2.3 million relating to a change in the estimate of a previously recorded reserve for a legal matter.  The second quarter of 2010 also includes a $4.5 million pretax charge relating to adjustments to previously recorded large title losses.  The first quarter of 2010 includes a $1.2 million pretax gain on the sale of an interest in a subsidiary.  (b)  The second quarter of 2009 includes pretax charges of $19.2 million relating to title loss reserve strengthening adjustments for prior policy years and $22.2 million relating to several agency defalcations and large title losses offset by $6.6 million relating to recoveries of previously recognized title losses.  Also included in the second quarter of 2009 is a $2.9 million credit relating to a change in the estimate of a previously recorded reserve for a legal matter.  The first three months of 2009 include a pretax credit of $2.6 million relating to a recovery on a previously recognized agency defalcation, a pretax credit of $3.0 million for the settlement of a legal matter in the Company's favor and a pretax charge of $8.9 million relating to the impairment of investment securities and other assets. (c)  Income tax expense in 2009 and 2010 is related primarily to certain goodwill book/tax differences and taxes in foreign jurisdictions for our international operations.  The Company did not recognize an income tax benefit during the first quarter of 2010 or the first half of 2009 relating to its pretax loss due to the recording of a valuation allowance against deferred tax assets.Total revenues rose 2.5 percent in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, and operating revenues increased 1.3 percent.  Revenues from direct title operations decreased 6.7 percent in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in the prior year.  Although total orders closed declined 25.9 percent, revenue per order increased 21.9 percent to $1,901.  This increase in overall revenue per order is due to the current quarter's closings being more heavily weighted to purchase transactions rather than refinancing transactions. Revenues from agency operations increased 6.0 percent in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the second quarter of 2009, continuing the trend noted in the past three quarters of improvement in our independent agency channel.  Our lender services in the real estate information (REI) segment continue to perform very well, with revenue increasing 22.4 percent for the second quarter of 2010 compared to the second quarter of 2009.  Demand for loan modification services, a product introduced in the second quarter of 2009, continues to be strong.Year-to-date total revenues for 2010 increased 6.5 percent compared to the same period in 2009.  Direct title revenues decreased 7.8 percent, agency title revenues rose 12.7 percent, and REI revenues increased 31.1 percent.  Title revenues for the quarter were positively impacted by the homebuyer tax credit, which required contracts to be signed by April 30, 2010 and (originally) closed by June 30, 2010.  However, the expiration of that credit as of April 30 negatively impacted orders for purchase transactions in May and June.  That decline was partially offset by an increase in refinancing orders due to record low mortgage interest rates.On June 30, 2010, Congress extended the closing deadline on contracts that qualify for the homebuyer tax credit to September 30, 2010.  This extension should positively influence third quarter results, as we incurred processing expenses in the second quarter on orders that would not otherwise have closed and generated revenue.  An industry estimate is that overall 180,000 transactions remain to be closed in the third quarter of 2010 under the homebuyer tax credit.  Commercial title revenues grew 20.4 percent in the second quarter of 2010 to $23.0 million compared to the same quarter in the prior year and rose 17.8 percent from the first quarter of 2010.  International operations remained strongly profitable due to a significant increase in revenues and earnings in Canadian operations.  Since beginning operations in Canada in 1988, we have steadily gained market share in the populous eastern provinces, and we now hold a leading position among title insurance underwriters.  Agency retention increased 40 basis points to 83.2 percent of agency revenues for the second quarter of 2010 compared with 82.8 percent for the second quarter of 2009, but down slightly from 83.3 percent from the first quarter of 2010.  As noted in previous quarters, transactional volume improved in those states in which the agents have historically retained a greater share of revenue.  We are systematically decreasing agent retention in states where low remittances have impeded targeted profitability.Employee costs were 27.9 percent of operating revenues for the second quarter of 2010, as compared to 29.0 percent in the second quarter of 2009.  We maintained appropriate staffing through June 30, 2010 to close the transactions resulting from the homebuyer tax credit.  Staffing levels are now being adjusted to reflect market activity.  In addition, we remain focused on achieving operational efficiencies, including the merger of three of our underwriters into Stewart Title Guaranty Company in the second quarter, which reduced ongoing expenses by almost $1 million annually.  We remain on schedule with the implementation of our enterprise resource planning system, which will result in further efficiencies in operating and employee costs.  We continue to consolidate operations into a centralized and shared services environment, aligning people, processes and technology to better provide customer interaction and reduce our cost structure.While we believe that title claims are trending downward, claims payments in the second quarter relating to prior year claims continued at elevated levels.  Including the impact of the charges described above, title losses and related claims for the second quarter of 2010 were 9.3 percent of title revenues as compared to 16.4 percent for the second quarter of 2009.  Previously canceled agents accounted for more than 27 percent of cash claim payments in the quarter.  Quarterly debt payments continued in the second quarter, and we expect existing bank debt to be retired early in the fourth quarter."Included in the quarter was a $6.3 million gain primarily relating to monetization of our technology investments," said Malcolm S. Morris, chairman and co-chief executive officer.  "This transaction not only resulted in a current-period gain, but it allows us continued access to the technology while achieving a significant reduction in ongoing expenses.  We anticipate further opportunities to monetize investments and reduce expenses relating to our proprietary technology and are aggressively pursuing these options.  We also reviewed our business model in all states, and are modifying our agency operations to become more profitable while strengthening agency services.""We are pleased to have achieved operational profitability this quarter and year-to-date in our direct operations.  We are carefully monitoring our order volume and are prepared to implement further operational efficiencies commensurate with the level of transaction volumes," said Stewart Morris, Jr., president and co-chief executive officer.  "We have also enhanced sales activity to yield market share growth," added Morris.  Stewart Information Services Corporation (NYSE-STC) is a customer-driven, technology-enabled, strategically competitive real estate information, title insurance and transaction management company.  Stewart provides title insurance and related information services required for settlement by the real estate and mortgage industries throughout the United States and in international markets.  Stewart also provides post-closing lender services, automated county clerk land records, property ownership mapping, geographic information systems, property information reports, flood certificates, document preparation, background checks and expertise in tax-deferred exchanges.  More information can be found at www.stewart.com.Forward-looking statements. Certain statements in this news release are "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  Such forward-looking statements relate to future, not past, events and often address our expected future business and financial performance.  These statements often contain words such as "expect," "anticipate," "intend," "plan," "believe," "seek," "will" or other similar words.  Forward-looking statements by their nature are subject to various risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to be materially different than those expressed in the forward-looking statements.  These risks and uncertainties include, among other things, the severity and duration of current financial and economic conditions; continued weakness or further adverse changes in the level of real estate activity; changes in mortgage interest rates, existing and new home sales, and availability of mortgage financing; our ability to respond to and implement technology changes, including the completion of the implementation of our enterprise systems; the impact of unanticipated title losses on the need to further strengthen our policy loss reserves; any effect of title losses on our cash flows and financial condition; the impact of our increased diligence and inspections in our agency operations; changes to the participants in the secondary mortgage market and the rate of refinancings that affect the demand for title insurance products; regulatory non-compliance, fraud or defalcations by our title insurance agents or employees; our ability to timely and cost-effectively respond to significant industry changes and introduce new products and services; the impact of changes in governmental and insurance regulations, including any future reductions in the pricing of title insurance products and services; our dependence on our operating subsidiaries as a source of cash flow; the continued realization of expected expense savings resulting from our expense reduction steps; our ability to access the equity and debt financing markets when and if needed; our ability to grow our international operations; and our ability to respond to the actions of our competitors. These risks and uncertainties, as well as others, are discussed in more detail in our documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009 and our Current Reports on Form 8-K. We expressly disclaim any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this news release to reflect events or circumstances that may arise after the date hereof, except as may be required by applicable law. STEWART INFORMATION SERVICES CORPORATIONSTATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS (condensed)(In thousands of dollars, except per share amounts and except where noted)Three months ended June 30Six months ended June 302010200920102009Revenues:Title insurance:    Direct operations     171,200183,582300,705326,119    Agency operations230,453217,423433,024384,193Real estate information26,65921,77338,20129,138Investment income5,4345,21410,21610,811Investment and other gains (losses) ? net7,7952,77110,708(6,040)441,541430,763792,854744,221Expenses:Amounts retained by agencies 191,820180,040360,555317,456Employee costs119,532122,434233,635237,140Other operating expenses 67,69470,500132,081137,274Title losses and related claims 37,44965,84363,78685,863Depreciation and amortization 5,6777,16311,61314,861Interest1,3949122,9522,091423,566446,892804,622794,685Earnings (loss) before taxes and noncontrolling interests17,975(16,129)(11,768)(50,464)Income tax expense5,8631,7384,3253,537Net earnings (loss)12,112(17,867)(16,093)(54,001)Less net earnings attributable to noncontrolling interests2,6842,7743,4424,244Net earnings (loss) attributable to Stewart9,428(20,641)(19,535)(58,245)Net earnings (loss) per diluted share attributable to Stewart0.45(1.14)(1.07)(3.21)Average number of dilutive shares (000) 22,92018,18318,28918,168Segment information:Title revenues414,882408,990754,653715,083Title pretax earnings (loss) before noncontrolling interests 5,438(25,861)(25,761)(55,319)REI revenues26,65921,77338,20129,138REI pretax earnings before noncontrolling interests 12,5379,73213,9934,855Selected financial information:Cash (used) provided by operations (7,960)5,6015,643(21,353)Title loss payments - net of recoveries 36,71134,92974,76671,458Other comprehensive earnings1,84313,2293,8339,159Number of title orders opened (000):April38.155.7May32.346.3June35.740.7Quarter106.0142.7Number of title orders closed (000): Quarter77.3104.4June 302010Dec 312009Stockholders' equity447,926462,066Number of shares outstanding (000)18,36718,232Book value per share24.3925.34STEWART INFORMATION SERVICES CORPORATIONBALANCE SHEETS (condensed)(In thousands of dollars)June 30December 3120102009Assets:Cash and cash equivalents125,62197,971Cash and cash equivalents ? statutory reserve funds15,31218,129     Total cash and cash equivalents 140,933116,100Short-term investments27,95324,194Investments ? statutory reserve funds395,174386,235Investments ? other49,17779,969Receivables ? premiums from agencies42,05642,630Receivables ? other68,191103,153Allowance for uncollectible amounts(21,223)(20,501)Property and equipment66,59670,633Title plants77,40178,421Goodwill206,933212,763Intangible assets8,6516,406Other assets70,71267,150Investments ? pledged, at fair value            ?202,0071,132,5541,369,160Liabilities:Notes payable13,92619,620Convertible senior notes payable64,25164,163Line of credit, secured by pledged investments?202,007Accounts payable and accrued liabilities94,863101,881Estimated title losses492,162503,475Deferred income taxes19,42615,948684,628907,094Contingent liabilities and commitmentsStockholders' equity:Common and Class B Common stock and additional paid-in capital146,827145,530Retained earnings276,580296,116Accumulated other comprehensive earnings14,79310,960Treasury stock(4,330)(4,330)    Stockholders' equity attributable to Stewart433,870448,276Noncontrolling interests14,05613,790    Total stockholders' equity447,926462,0661,132,5541,369,160SOURCE Stewart Information Services CorporationFor further information: Ted C. Jones, Director - Investor Relations of Stewart Information Services Corporation, +1-713-625-8014