Assurant Inc. (NYSE:AIZ) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript
Feb 13, 2019 • 08:00 am ET
Welcome to Assurant's Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2018 Earnings Conference Call and Webcast. At this time, all participants have been placed in a listen-only mode and the floor will be opened for your questions following management's prepared remarks. (Operator Instructions). It is now my pleasure to turn the floor over to Suzanne Shepherd, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations. You may begin.
Thank you, Christina and good morning everyone. We look forward to discussing our fourth quarter and full year 2018 results with you today.
Joining me for Assurant's conference call are Alan Colberg, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and Richard Dziadzio, our Chief Financial Officer. Yesterday, after the market closed, we issued a news release announcing our results for the fourth quarter and full year 2018. The release and corresponding financial supplement are available on assurant.com. We'll start today's call with brief remarks from Alan and Richard before moving into a Q&A session.
Some of the statements made today may be forward-looking. Forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by these statements. Additional information regarding these factors can be found in yesterday's earnings release as well as in our SEC reports.
During today's call, we will refer to non-GAAP financial measures, which we believe are important in evaluating the Company's performance. For more details on these measures, the most comparable GAAP measures and a reconciliation of the two, please refer to yesterday's news release and financial supplement available on assurant.com.
I will now turn the call over to Alan.
Alan B. Colberg
Thanks, Suzanne and good morning everyone. We are pleased with our performance in 2018. We successfully delivered on our financial commitments to shareholders while also investing to ensure a stronger Assurant for the future.
For the full year 2018, we grew net operating income excluding reportable catastrophes by 25%, at the high-end of our outlook for the year. This was driven by a lower effective tax rate, our acquisition of The Warranty Group and organic growth in targeted areas. Operating earnings per diluted share excluding catastrophes grew 16% at a lower rate than net operating income given the 10 million share issuance related to our acquisition of The Warranty Group.
We are also pleased by the ongoing cash flow generation of our specialty businesses, which contribute $740 million of dividends to the holding company. As a result, we issued 3 million fewer shares to finance our TWG acquisition and returned $266 million to shareholders through buybacks and common stock dividends. This year through February 8, we returned another $22 million to shareholders as we continue to view our stock as attractively priced.
We also remain confident in the cash flow generation of our businesses. Last November, we increased our common stock dividend by 7%, representing the 15th increase since becoming a public company. More importantly, in 2018, we took steps to sustain outperformance and profitable growth long term. We further strengthened our leading franchises within