Fidelity National earnings nearly double

Title insurance firm Fidelity National Financial (FNF) reported nearly double the profits from one year ago as claims are expected to decline.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based firm earned $74.4 million or 33 cents per share in the first quarter, up from $42.5 million one year ago. Fidelity paid $104 million in title claims, up 16% from last year.

Revenue showed a slight increase to $1.19 billion from $1.13 billion in the first quarter. Closed title orders at Fidelity increased more than 10% to 409,000.

The commercial business fared even better. The Fidelity commercial title business generated $79 million in revenue, a 19% increase from last year.

“This was a great start to 2012 and our strongest first quarter performance in a number of years,” said CEO George Scanlon.

The company said it will continue to sell of debt and businesses. It expects to raise $119 million from selling an 85% interest in its personal lines business May 1. Along with the sale of its flood insurance business, Fidelity says it could raise $254 million in cash and an $86 million gain after taxes.

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