Conseco’s loss big, but smaller than forecast

Conseco Inc. reported a big third-quarter loss after the markets closed today. But the results appeared to be better than analysts had forecast.

Carmel-based Conseco recorded a net loss of $182 million, or 98 cents per common share. That widened its loss from the third quarter last year, which totaled $53 million, or 28 cents per share.

Conseco attributed all of the red ink to accounting charges it had to take because its investments have dropped substantially in value and because it is transferring its Conseco Senior insurance policies to an independent trust.

Without those charges, Conseco would have recorded a profit of $58.9 million, or 32 cents per share. The comparable figures for a year ago were a loss of $21.7 million, or 12 cents per share.

Analysts were expecting profit, excluding special charges, of 27 cents per share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

Investors on Wall Street have hammered Conseco since Sept. 16 when it revealed it held more than $100 million in the bonds of three troubled companies: Lehman brothers, American International Group and Washington Mutual

The company’s share price has fallen 75 percent since then and now the entire company’s stock has a market value of less than $350 million.

For the third quarter, Conseco pulled in revenue of $956 million, down more than 18 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

“We are pleased with the performance of our core businesses during the quarter,” Conseco CEO Jim Prieur said in a statement. “All business lines contributed to earnings, and Bankers Life returned to its expected level of profitability, reflecting, in part, measures implemented to improve its long-term care business.”

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