Fidelity National posts strong 4Q on rebounding title insurance revenue
Fidelity National Financial (FNF) earned $130.8 million, or 58 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, up from $69.3 million, or 30 cents a share, in the year-ago period as rebounding title insurance revenue boosted earnings. Revenue was $1.61 billion for the fourth quarter, up from $1.46 billion in the comparable quarter of 2009. "The title insurance business experienced strong refinance volumes due to the low mortgage interest rate environment, and we continued to closely manage our expense levels, producing our strongest title earnings and pre-tax margin in a number of years," said Chairman William Foley II. "The fourth quarter was particularly strong with a 13.8% pretax margin." The provider of title insurance, mortgage services, specialty insurance and information services saw earnings in the title group rise to $207.2 million, up from $110.8 million a year earlier, in fourth-quarter earnings that beat analyst expectations. “Quarterly title and escrow revenue was up 9% on a year-over-year basis, and the combined ratio for title operations came in at a solid 90%,” said Morningstar analysts. “The consolidated operating margin was an impressive 14%, validating the expense control that management has implemented over the past few years. Book value per share ended the year at $15.39, up from $14.53 at the end of 2009.” For the full year, Fidelity earned $370.1 million, or $1.61 per share, up from $222.3 million, or 97 cents a share, in 2009. Full-year revenue in 2010 was $5.74 billion, down from $5.83 in 2009. Fidelity repurchased 6 million shares of its stock at a significant discount to year-end book value during the quarter, an action that Morningstar said "bodes well for shareholders." Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.