NU Online News Service, May 12, 2004, 5:36 p.m. EDT – Assurant Inc., New York, got off to a strong start as a stand-alone company during the first quarter.[@@]

Fortis, Brussels, formed the multi-line insurer in February by turning its U.S. health insurance, benefits, funeral insurance and specialty insurance operations into a separate company through a $2 billion initial public offering.

Assurant is reporting $94.4 million in net income for its first quarter as an independent company on $1.9 billion in revenue, up from $73.2 million in net income on $1.7 billion in revenue for the comparable quarter in 2003.

Strong growth in individual health insurance and steady growth in small group health insurance helped Assurant’s health unit increase net earned premiums 16% in the first quarter, to $550.9 million.

Net operating income at the benefits unit increased 63%, to $13 million, as a result of improvements in group life and group disability loss ratios, Assurant says.

In related news, Moody’s Investors Service, New York, has reacted to Assurant’s performance by assigning a Prime-2 rating to the company’s $500 million commercial paper program.

Assurant earns consistent profits and has many diverse sources of cash, Moody’s says.