Richfield insurer’s earnings up

Richfield specialty insurer National Interstate Corp. reported Wednesday that it had higher revenue and earnings for its third quarter compared to a year ago.

The company reported net income of slightly more than $9 million, or 46 cents per share, on revenue of $125.5 million for the third quarter ending Sept. 30. That compares to net income of $5.8 million, or 30 cents per share, on revenue of $116.9 million for the same quarter in 2011.

“Our underwriting results for the 2012 third quarter were better than both the 2011 third quarter and the first two quarters of 2012,” Dave Michelson, president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “This improvement is noteworthy given that the claims results for the third quarter have historically been elevated when compared to other quarters of the year. ... It appears we may be turning the corner on several products that have been performing below our standards.”

Third-quarter results were slightly better than what National Interstate had been expecting, Michelson said.

“Improvement in our top line and underwriting results and continued solid investment performance contributed to a satisfactory quarter,” he said. “We are seeing rising rates and competitor actions with some regularity in many of our markets which are clear signals that the insurance markets we compete in are becoming more rational.”

Company executives will hold a conference call with industry analysts at 10 a.m. today. To listen in, go online via webcast at http://invest.natl.com or by calling 877-837-3911 five to 10 minutes before the conference starts.


U.S. shale assets depreciate

Bloomberg News reported that Total SA, Europe’s third-biggest oil company, has for the first time written down the value of its U.S. shale assets.

Total’s depreciation on its Barnett shale holdings in Texas amounted to $911 million after taxes in the third quarter.

Total recognized a charge of $1 billion of special items in financial results. That’s mostly from U.S. shale assets and a tax on crude and refined oil product inventories imposed by French President Francois Hollande. The shale markets have been hit by a supply glut that has driven down prices paid for natural gas. Total has a joint venture in Texas with Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. The two companies also have a partnership in the liquid-rich Utica shale in eastern Ohio.


Carl Icahn stalks Netflix

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn acquired a 10 percent stake in Netflix Inc., operator of the largest online video streaming service, and is considering ways to maximize the company’s value. Icahn said in a filing he has accumulated 5.54 million shares of Netflix, including options, that amount to a 10 percent stake. He cited its dominant position in video streaming and international prospects, and said it may hold “strategic value” for larger companies.


Chinese position debated

Gerald Greenwald, a former Chrysler vice chairman and co-founder of a private-equity firm, said companies shouldn’t be criticized for hiring in China after the automaker was made a subject of the U.S. presidential campaign.

“We’ve all got to quit telling corporations where they should employ,” said Greenwald, the co-founder of Greenbriar Equity Group LLC. The U.S. should focus on how to “tempt” corporations to invest in the country and “not beat up on companies because they’re doing what is economically in their interest.” Greenwald, 77, departed the then-independent Chrysler Corp. in 1990. He is a former chief executive officer of UAL Corp., the former parent company of United Airlines. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a crowd of supporters at an Oct. 25 campaign event that Chrysler Group LLC was considering moving Jeep production to China, citing an unidentified news story. Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said Tuesday in a message to employees that Jeep sport-utility vehicle output will stay in the United States, reiterating the company’s statements in an Oct. 25 blog post.


Dow Jones falls 10.75 points

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 10.75 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 13,096.46. It fell 2.5 percent for the month. Walt Disney shares fell 1.9 percent. The company said late Tuesday that it will buy Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion in cash and stocks.

Down 2 percent for the month, the S&P 500 index ended almost flat, up 0.22 points at 1,412.16. The Nasdaq fell 10.72 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,977.23, ending 4.5 percent lower for the month.

Compiled from staff and wire reports