UPDATE: Conseco shares climb following report

Stock in Conseco Inc. rose 2.7 percent this morning, to $10.47 a share, after the Carmel-based insurance company reported final results for its fourth quarter.

In the quarter ended Dec. 31, Conseco lost $71.5 million, compared to $5.7 million in the same period a year earlier.

On a per-share basis, Conseco swung to a 38-cent loss in the quarter versus a gain of 4 cents last year. Revenue for the quarter declined 2 percent, to $1.1 billion.

Conseco reported final financial results for 2007 last night – two weeks after reporting preliminary results. Final results were delayed because of a conversation between Conseco and the Securities and Exchange Commission about how to account for price increases on its long-term-care policies.

The setback was caused by investment losses on subprime mortgage-backed securities and an adjustment to tax assets.

The company racked up investment losses of $36.6 million before taxes due to the general decline in markets and because it sold off mortgage-backed securities connected to subprime housing loans, the company said in a statement.

Conseco also spent $68 million to increase the valuation allowance connected to deferred tax assets it holds. Conseco holds $1.9 billion in tax assets, mainly from losses connected to its 2003 bankruptcy reorganization. It can apply those losses to future profits to reduce the amount of tax it owes.

For all of 2007, Conseco lost $194 million for its common shareholders, compared with a profit of $68 million in 2006.

On a per-share basis, Conseco lost $1.12 last year, compared with a gain of 45 cents the previous year. Revenue for 2007 rose 2 percent, to $4.6 billion.

On March 17, Conseco reported it has been working with Morgan Stanley for several months to explore “strategic alternatives.” Such language often leads to a sale of the company. But CEO Jim Prieur said then that selling a block of Conseco’s business is a possible “alternative” the company could take.

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