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Mercury General Corporation Announces Fourth Quarter Results and Declares Quarterly Dividend
PRNewswire-FirstCall
LOS ANGELES

Mercury General Corporation (NYSE: MCY) reported today for the fourth quarter of 2009:

                             Consolidated Highlights                        
                                                                            
                                Three Months Ended            Change
                                    December 31,               ------        
                                  2009        2008         $             %    
                                  ----        ----        ---           ---   
  (000's except per-share
   amounts and ratios)                                  
  Net premiums written (1)      $618,919    $641,641   $(22,722)       (3.5)
  Net income (loss) (5)          $34,235   $(168,345)  $202,580           - 
  Net income (loss) per diluted                                             
   share                           $0.62      $(3.07)     $3.69           - 
  Operating income
   (loss) (1) (5)                $38,203    $(26,706)   $64,909       243.1 
  Operating income (loss) per                                               
   diluted share (1)               $0.69      $(0.48)     $1.17       243.8 
  Severance related expenses (2)      $-          $-         $-           - 
  Net expense related to
   amortization of
   December 31, 2008                     
   AIS deferred policy                                                    
   acquisition costs (2) (3)          $-          $-         $-           - 
  Catastrophe losses (2) (4)          $-     $20,000   $(20,000)          - 
  Favorable tax ruling (5)            $-          $-         $-           - 
  Combined ratio                    98.1%      113.4%         -  (15.3) pts 


                                Twelve Months Ended            Change       
                                    December 31,               ------       
                                  2009        2008         $             %  
                                  ----        ----        ---           --- 
  (000's except per-share
   amounts and ratios)                                  
  Net premiums written (1)    $2,589,972  $2,750,226  $(160,254)       (5.8)
  Net income (loss) (5)         $403,072   $(242,119)  $645,191           - 
  Net income (loss) per diluted                                             
   share                           $7.32      $(4.42)    $11.74           - 
  Operating income 
   (loss) (1) (5)               $177,883    $115,719    $62,164        53.7 
  Operating income (loss) per                                               
   diluted share (1)               $3.23       $2.12      $1.11        52.3 
  Severance related expenses (2)  $8,000          $-     $8,000           - 
  Net expense related to
   amortization of
   December 31, 2008                     
   AIS deferred policy                                                    
   acquisition costs (2) (3)     $15,000          $-    $15,000           - 
  Catastrophe losses (2) (4)          $-     $26,000   $(26,000)          - 
  Favorable tax ruling (5)            $-     $17,500   $(17,500)          - 
  Combined ratio                    96.9%      101.8%         -   (4.9) pts 

  (1) These measures are not based on U.S. generally accepted accounting 
      principles ("GAAP") and are defined and reconciled to the most 
      directly comparable GAAP measures in "Information Regarding Non-GAAP
      Measures."
  (2) The amounts are rounded to the nearest million.
  (3) Represents the net expense related to Auto Insurance Specialists, LLC 
      ("AIS") deferred commissions at December 31, 2008 amortized in 2009, 
      partially offset by deferred costs related to policy sales made by 
      AIS in 2009. 
  (4) Catastrophe losses in 2008 were primarily the result of Southern 
      California wildfires (estimated $20 million during the fourth quarter)
      and Hurricane Ike (estimated $6 million during the third quarter).
  (5) The Company recognized a net tax benefit of $17.5 million in the third
      quarter 2008 as a result of a favorable California Superior Court 
      ruling.  This amount is included in both the operating income and net 
      loss for 2008.

Net income in the fourth quarter 2009 was $34.2 million ($0.62 per diluted share) compared with net loss of $168.3 million ($3.07 per diluted share) for the same period in 2008. For the year, net income was $403.1 million ($7.32 per diluted share) compared with net loss of $242.1 million ($4.42 per diluted share) for the same period in 2008. Included in net income (loss) are net realized investment losses, net of tax, of $4.0 million ($0.07 per diluted share) in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared with net realized investment losses, net of tax, of $141.6 million ($2.59 per diluted share) for the same period in 2008, and net realized investment gains, net of tax, of $225.2 million ($4.09 per diluted share) for the year compared to net realized investment losses, net of tax, of $357.8 million ($6.54 diluted share) for the same period in 2008. Operating income was $38.2 million ($0.69 per diluted share) for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared with operating loss of $26.7 million ($0.48 per diluted share) for the same period in 2008. For the year, operating income was $177.9 million ($3.23 per diluted share) compared with operating income of $115.7 million ($2.12 per diluted share) for the same period in 2008.

Net realized investment losses, net of tax, of $4.0 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 and net realized investment gains, net of tax, of $225.2 million for the year include losses, net of tax, of $6.6 million, and gains, net of tax, of $257.1 million, respectively, from the election of the fair value option. Gains and losses, net of tax, from the sale of securities were $2.6 million and $34.3 million during the fourth quarter and the year, respectively.

Net premiums written were $618.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, a 3.5% decrease over fourth quarter 2008 net premiums written of $641.6 million, and were approximately $2.6 billion for the year, a 5.8% decrease over the same period in 2008. The rate of premium decline slowed over the course of the year. The Company experienced premium decreases of 8.0%, 6.8%, and 4.7% in the first, second, and third quarter 2009, respectively, over comparable quarters in 2008.

The Company's combined ratio (GAAP basis) was 98.1% in the fourth quarter of 2009 and 96.9% for the year compared with 113.4% and 101.8% for the same periods in 2008. Loss development on prior periods' loss reserves was approximately $58 million positive for the year ended 2009, compared with approximately $89 million adverse for the same period in 2008. The favorable development in 2009 is largely the result of re-estimates of California bodily injury losses which have experienced both lower average severities and fewer late reported claims (claim count development) than was originally estimated at December 31, 2008.

Net investment income of $35.6 million (after tax, $23.1 million) in the fourth quarter of 2009 increased by 2.1% over the same period in 2008. The investment income after-tax yield was 4.1% on average investments (fixed maturities at amortized cost, equities and short-term investments at cost) of $3.1 billion for the fourth quarter 2009. This compares with an investment income after-tax yield of 3.7% on average investments of $3.4 billion for the same period in 2008. Net investment income for the year was $144.9 million (after tax, $130.1 million), a decrease of 4.2% over the same period in 2008. The investment income after-tax yield was 4.1% on average assets of $3.2 billion for the year. This compares with an investment income after-tax yield of 3.9% on average investments of $3.5 billion for the same period in 2008.

The Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.59 per share, representing a 1.7% increase over the quarterly dividend amount paid in 2009. The dividend is to be paid on March 31, 2010 to shareholders of record on March 16, 2010.

Mercury General Corporation and its subsidiaries are a multiple line insurance organization offering predominantly personal automobile and homeowners insurance through a network of independent producers in many states. For more information, visit the Company's website at www.mercuryinsurance.com. The Company will be hosting a conference call and webcast today at 10:00 A.M. Pacific time where management will discuss results and address questions. The teleconference and webcast can be accessed by calling (877) 807-1888 (USA), (706) 679-3827 (International) or by visiting www.mercuryinsurance.com. A replay of the call will be available beginning at 1:30 P.M. Pacific time and running through February 15, 2010. The replay telephone numbers are (800) 642-1687 (USA) or (706) 645-9291 (International). The conference ID# is 50251265. The replay will also be available on the Company's website shortly following the call.

The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides a "safe harbor" for certain forward-looking statements. The statements contained in this press release are forward-looking statements based on the Company's current expectations and beliefs concerning future developments and their potential effects on the Company. There can be no assurance that future developments affecting the Company will be those anticipated by the Company. Actual results may differ from those projected in the forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements involve significant risks and uncertainties (some of which are beyond the control of the Company) and are subject to change based upon various factors, including but not limited to the following risks and uncertainties: changes in the demand for the Company's insurance products, inflation and in general economic conditions, including the impact of current economic conditions on the Company's market and investment portfolio; the accuracy and adequacy of the Company's pricing methodologies; adverse weather conditions or natural disasters in the markets served by the Company; general market risks associated with the Company's investment portfolio; uncertainties related to estimates, assumptions and projections generally; the possibility that actual loss experience may vary adversely from the actuarial estimates made to determine the Company's loss reserves in general; the Company's ability to obtain and the timing of regulatory approval for requested rate changes; legislation adverse to the automobile insurance industry or business generally that may be enacted in California or other states; the Company's success in managing its business in states outside of California; the Company's ability to successfully complete its initiative to standardize its policies and procedures nationwide in all of its functional areas; the presence of competitors with greater financial resources and the impact of competitive pricing; changes in driving patterns and loss trends; acts of war and terrorist activities; court decisions and trends in litigation and health care and auto repair costs and marketing efforts; and various legal, regulatory and litigation risks. The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as the result of new information, future events or otherwise. For a more detailed discussion of some of the foregoing risks and uncertainties, see the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Information Regarding Non-GAAP Measures

The Company has presented information within this document containing operating measures which in management's opinion provide investors with useful, industry specific information to help them evaluate, and perform meaningful comparisons of, the Company's performance, but that may not be presented in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. These measures are not intended to replace, and should be read in conjunction with, the GAAP financial results.

Operating income is net income excluding realized investment gains and losses, net of tax. Net income is the GAAP measure that is most directly comparable to operating income. Operating income is used by management along with the other components of net income to assess the Company's performance. Management uses operating income as an important measure to evaluate the results of the Company's insurance business. Management believes that operating income provides investors with a valuable measure of the Company's ongoing performance as it reveals trends in the Company's insurance business that may be obscured by the net effect of realized capital gains and losses. Realized capital gains and losses may vary significantly between periods and are generally driven by external economic developments such as capital market conditions. Accordingly, operating income highlights the results from ongoing operations and the underlying profitability of the Company's core insurance business. Operating income, which is provided as supplemental information and should not be considered as a substitute for net income, does not reflect the overall profitability of our business. It should be read in conjunction with the GAAP financial results. The Company has reconciled operating income with the most directly comparable GAAP measure in the table below.

                                                                    
                                    Three Months Ended December 31, 
                                                      Per diluted  
                                         Total          share (1)  
                                         -----         -----------  
                                    2009       2008   2009    2008 
                                    ----       ----   ----    ---- 
  (000's except per-share amounts)                                  
  Operating income (loss)         $38,203   $(26,706) $0.69  $(0.48)
  Net realized investment gains                                     
   (losses), net of tax            (3,968)  (141,639) (0.07)  (2.59)
                                   ------   --------  -----   ----- 
  Net income (loss)               $34,235  $(168,345) $0.62  $(3.07)
                                  =======  =========  =====  ====== 


                                   Twelve Months Ended December 31, 
                                                      Per diluted  
                                         Total          share (1)  
                                         -----         -----------  
                                    2009       2008   2009    2008 
                                    ----       ----   ----    ---- 
  (000's except per-share amounts)                                  
  Operating income (loss)        $177,883   $115,719  $3.23   $2.12 
  Net realized investment gains                                     
   (losses), net of tax           225,189   (357,838)  4.09   (6.54)
                                  -------   --------   ----   ----- 
  Net income (loss)              $403,072  $(242,119) $7.32  $(4.42)
                                 ========  =========  =====  ====== 

  (1) The dilutive impact of incremental shares is excluded from loss 
      positions in 2008 in accordance with GAAP.

Net premiums written represents the premiums charged on policies issued during a fiscal period. Net premiums earned, the most directly comparable GAAP measure, represents the portion of premiums written that have been recognized as income in the financial statements for the periods presented as earned on a pro-rata basis over the term of the policies. Net premiums written is meant as supplemental information and is not intended to replace net premiums earned. Such information should be read in conjunction with the GAAP financial results. The Company has reconciled net premiums written with the most directly comparable GAAP measure in the supplemental schedule entitled, "Summary of Operating Results."

Paid losses and loss adjustment expenses is the portion of incurred losses and loss adjustment expenses, the most directly comparable GAAP measure, excluding the effects of changes in the loss reserve accounts. Paid losses and loss adjustment expenses is provided as supplemental information and is not intended to replace incurred losses and loss adjustment expenses. It should be read in conjunction with the GAAP financial results. The Company has reconciled paid losses and loss adjustment expenses with the most directly comparable GAAP measure in the supplemental schedule entitled, "Summary of Operating Results."

Combined ratio-accident period basis is computed as the difference between two GAAP operating ratios: the combined ratio and the effect of prior accident periods' loss development. The most directly comparable GAAP measure is the combined ratio. The Company believes that this ratio is useful to investors and it is used by management to reveal the trends in the Company's results of operations that may be obscured by development on prior accident periods' loss reserves. Combined ratio-accident period basis is meant as supplemental information and is not intended to replace combined ratio. It should be read in conjunction with the GAAP financial results. The Company has reconciled combined ratio-accident period basis with the most directly comparable GAAP measure in the table below.

                                              
                                             Twelve    
                                          Months Ended    
                                           December 31,   
                                          -------------  
                                          2009     2008 
                                          ----     ---- 
                                              
  Combined ratio-accident period basis    99.0%    98.8%
  Effect of estimated prior periods' 
   loss development                       (2.1)%    3.0%
                                           ----     --- 
  Combined ratio                          96.9%   101.8%
                                           ====   ===== 



                MERCURY GENERAL CORPORATION AND SUBSIDIARIES              
                        SUMMARY OF OPERATING RESULTS                      
                 (000's except per-share amounts and ratios)              
                                 (unaudited)                              
                                                                          
                                 Quarter Ended        Twelve Months Ended  
                                  December 31,            December 31,     
                                 2009       2008        2009        2008 
                                 ----       ----        ----        ---- 
  Net premiums written        $618,919   $641,641  $2,589,972  $2,750,226 
                                                                          
  Revenues:                                                               
       Net premium earned     $646,101   $680,114   2,625,133   2,808,839 
       Net investment income    35,615     34,900     144,949     151,280 
       Net realized investment                                             
        gains (losses)          (6,105)  (217,906)    346,444    (550,520)
       Other                     1,711        788       4,967       4,597 
                                 -----        ---       -----       ----- 
            Total revenues    $677,322   $497,896  $3,121,493  $2,414,196 
                              --------   --------  ----------  ---------- 
  Expenses:                                                               
       Incurred losses         446,042    575,585   1,782,233   2,060,409 
       Policy acquisition                                                 
        costs                  129,245    152,742     543,307     624,854 
       Other operating                                                    
        expenses                59,067     42,994     217,683     174,828 
       Interest                  1,670      1,307       6,729       4,966 
                                 -----      -----       -----       ----- 
            Total expenses    $636,024   $772,628  $2,549,952  $2,865,057 
                              --------   --------  ----------  ---------- 
                                                                          
  Income before income taxes   $41,298  $(274,732)   $571,541   $(450,861)
       Income tax expense                                                 
        (benefit)                7,063   (106,387)    168,469    (208,742)
                                 -----   --------     -------    -------- 
             Net income (loss) $34,235  $(168,345)   $403,072   $(242,119)
                               =======  =========    ========   ========= 
                                                                          
  Basic average shares                                                    
   outstanding                  54,772     54,763      54,770      54,744 
  Diluted average shares                                                  
   outstanding                  55,243     55,028      55,092      54,917 
                                                                          
                                                                          
  Basic Per Share Data                                                    
  --------------------                                                    
  Net income (loss)              $0.63     $(3.07)      $7.36      $(4.42)
                                 =====     ======       =====      ====== 
                                                                          
  Net realized investment                                                 
   gains (losses), net of tax   $(0.07)    $(2.59)      $4.11      $(6.54)
                                ======     ======       =====      ====== 
                                                                          
                                                                          
  Diluted Per Share Data                                                  
  ----------------------                                                  
  Net income (loss) (a)          $0.62     $(3.07)      $7.32      $(4.42)
                                 =====     ======       =====      ====== 
                                                                          
  Net realized investment gains 
   (losses), net of tax (a)     $(0.07)    $(2.59)      $4.09      $(6.54)
                                ======     ======       =====      ====== 
                                                                          
                                                                          
  Operating Ratios-GAAP Basis                                             
  ---------------------------                                             
  Loss ratio                      69.0%      84.6%       67.9%       73.3%
  Expense ratio                   29.1%      28.8%       29.0%       28.5%
                                  ----       ----        ----        ---- 
  Combined ratio                  98.1%     113.4%       96.9%      101.8%
                                  ====      =====        ====       ===== 
                                                                          
                                                                          
  Reconciliations of Operating 
  Measures to Comparable GAAP 
  Measures       
  ----------------------------      
                                                                          
  Net premiums written        $618,919   $641,641  $2,589,972  $2,750,226 
  Decrease in unearned                                                    
   premiums                     27,182     38,473      35,161      58,613 
                                ------     ------      ------      ------ 
  Net premiums earned         $646,101   $680,114  $2,625,133  $2,808,839 
                              ========   ========  ==========  ========== 
                                                                          
  Paid losses and loss                                                    
   adjustment expenses        $451,018   $492,693  $1,864,426  $2,032,088 
  (Decrease) increase in net                                              
   loss and loss adjustment                                               
   expense reserves             (4,976)    82,892     (82,193)     28,321 
                                ------     ------     -------      ------ 
  Incurred losses and loss                                                
   adjustment expenses        $446,042   $575,585  $1,782,233  $2,060,409 
                              ========   ========  ==========  ========== 
                                                                          
  (a) The dilutive impact of incremental shares in 2008 is excluded from 
      loss positions in accordance with GAAP 



                MERCURY GENERAL CORPORATION AND SUBSIDIARIES            
               CONDENSED BALANCE SHEETS AND OTHER INFORMATION            
                (000's except per-share amounts and ratios)              
                                (unaudited)                              
                                                                         
                                    December 31, 2009  December 31, 2008 
                                    -----------------  ----------------- 
                ASSETS                                                   
                ------                                                   
                                                                         
  Investments:                                                           
    Fixed maturities trading, at                                         
     fair value (amortized cost                                          
     $2,673,079; $2,728,471)            $2,704,561         $2,481,673 
    Equity securities trading, at                                        
     fair value (cost $308,941;                                          
     $403,773)                             286,131            247,391 
    Short-term investments, at                                           
     fair value (amortized cost                                          
     $156,126; $208,278)                   156,165            204,756 
                                           -------            ------- 
      Total investments                  3,146,857          2,933,820 
                                                                         
  Cash                                     185,505             35,396 
  Receivables:                                                           
    Premiums receivable                    262,278            268,227 
    Premium notes                           14,510             25,699 
    Accrued investment income               37,405             36,540 
    Other                                   13,689              9,526 
                                            ------              ----- 
      Total receivables                    327,882            339,992 
                                                                         
  Deferred policy acquisition costs        175,866            200,005 
  Fixed assets, net                        201,862            191,777 
  Current income taxes                      27,268             43,378 
  Deferred income taxes                     36,139            171,025 
  Goodwill                                  42,850              5,206 
  Other intangible assets                   66,823                  - 
  Other assets                              21,581             29,596 
                                            ------             ------ 
      Total assets                      $4,232,633         $3,950,195 
                                        ==========         ========== 

    LIABILITIES AND SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY 
    ------------------------------------                          

  Losses and loss adjustment                                             
   expenses                             $1,053,334         $1,133,508 
  Unearned premiums                        844,540            879,651 
  Notes payable                            271,397            158,625 
  Accounts payable and accrued                                        
   expenses                                114,469             93,864 
  Other liabilities                        177,947            190,496 
  Shareholders' equity                   1,770,946          1,494,051 
                                         ---------          --------- 
        Total liabilities and                                            
         shareholders' equity           $4,232,633         $3,950,195 
                                        ==========         ========== 
                                                                         
          OTHER INFORMATION                                              
          -----------------                                              
                                                                         
  Common stock-shares outstanding           54,777             54,764 
  Book value per share                      $32.33             $27.28 
  Estimated statutory surplus         $1.5 billion       $1.4 billion 
  Estimated premiums written to                                          
   surplus ratio                               1.7                2.0 
  Debt to total capital ratio                 13.3%               9.6%
  Portfolio duration                     5.1 years          6.5 years 
  Policies-in-Force (Company-wide "PIF")                                 
      Personal Auto PIF                      1,279              1,321 
      Homeowners PIF                           328                303

First Call Analyst:
FCMN Contact: jwalters@mercuryinsurance.com

SOURCE: Mercury General Corporation

CONTACT: Theodore Stalick, VP/CFO of Mercury General Corporation,
+1-323-937-1060

Web Site: http://www.mercuryinsurance.com/

Company News On-Call: http://www.prnewswire.com/comp/554587.html


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