Wall Street yawns at abnormal Conseco loss

May 9, 2007
Abnormal losses have been so common at Conseco Inc. lately that a huge earnings miss in its first quarter produced just a mild effect on its stock price. Conseco shares fell slightly this morning after the life and health insurer reported earnings per share 24 cents below analysts' expectations.

Carmel-based Conseco announced Tuesday night after markets closed that its profits, excluding investment losses, totaled 10 cents per share during the three months ended March 31. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected 34 cents per share.

At 11:30 a.m., Conseco shares traded at $17.64, down 15 cents.

Conseco also announced it would sell a $3 billion block of annuity policies to a unit of Swiss Re. The transaction, expected to close in the second half of the year, would free up $250 million for Conseco.

During a conference call this morning, many analysts asked Conseco executives when the unusual charges would stop. Conseco executives gave no specific dates, but reiterated that they're making progress.

Conseco's quarterly results also were dampened by $22 million it spent to shore up reserves for some long-term care policies it no longer sells. Those policies were generating higher-than-expected claims because they offer lifetime benefits that increase in step with inflation.

In the previous quarter, Conseco announced it spent $53 million after taxes to boost its insurance reserves, leading to a loss of 2 cents per share.
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