CNO reports lower third-quarter profit, revenue

CNO Financial Group Inc. on Tuesday reported lower profit and revenue in the third quarter compared to the year-ago period, but it beat Wall Street expectations for operating earnings.

The Carmel-based insurance holding company had profit of $117.4 million, or 54 cents per share, in the period ended Sept. 30, down from $283 million, or $1.23 per share, in last year's third quarter.

The lower profit came after a favorable one-time tax event boosted profit in the year-ago period. Operating earnings, which excludes such non-operational events, edged up 5.4 percent to $76.6 million, or 35 cents per share, from $72.7 million, or 32 cents a share.

Revenue fell 11 percent, to $967 million, mostly due to the sale of its troublesome Conseco Life Insurance Co., officials said.

CNO exceeded analyst predictions of 32 cents per share for operating earnings and slightly missed revenue projections of $968.9 million.

New annualized premiums rose 2 percent, to $104 million, in the quarter. Collected premiums also increased 2 percent, to $827 million.

At CNO's flagship Bankers Life division, which targets middle-income Americans with a variety of insurance products, new annualized premiums slipped 1.1 percent, or $700,000, to $61.8 million.

CNO said the weakness primarily stemmed from “low levels of recruiting year-to-date which led to a 6-percent decrease in average agent count.”

"The strength of our business franchise produced growth in sales, collected premiums, earnings and continued capital strength supporting further return of capital to shareholders in the quarter," CNO CEO Ed Bonach said in written remarks. "While pleased with consistent sales growth at Washington National and continued strong recovery at Colonial Penn, we are taking steps to gain back sales momentum in our Bankers Life segment as we end 2014 and head into 2015."

CNO shares closed at $17.77 each on Tuesday, prior to the earnings release, up 2.8 percent on the day.

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