Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. reported fourth-quarter net income of $557 million, or $1.19 per share, compared with a loss of $806 million, or $2.71 per share, a year earlier. For the full year, the Connecticut company posted a loss of $887 million, compared with a $2.7 billion loss in 2008.

"The Hartford's fourth-quarter results represent a return to profitability," Liam McGee, the company's chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

"Both life, and property and casualty businesses reported net income, and this is the third sequential quarter of improving core earnings."

Core earnings, which excludes net realized and unrealized investment gains and losses, was $689 million, or $1.51 per share for the quarter, compared with a loss of $208 million a year earlier.

Other highlights of the earnings announcement included: Significant capital creation, with property and casualty earnings contributing to a $1.4 billion increase in statutory surplus in 2009, and continued new-business-written premium growth of 21% in the small-commercial category and 7% in middle market over the prior year.

Hartford said it expects core earnings per diluted share this year to be between $3.70 and $4.

This assumes that the Standard & Poor's 500 index will post a 9% return for the year.

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