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Markel Reports Third Quarter and Nine Month Period Results

RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Markel Corporation (NYSE: MKL) reported net income of $1.40 per diluted share for the quarter ended September 30, 2004 compared to a net loss of $1.68 per diluted share for the same period of 2003. Net income for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 was $11.68 per diluted share compared to $7.99 per diluted share in 2003. The combined ratio for the third quarter of 2004 was 106% compared to 110% in 2003. For the nine months ended September 30, 2004, the combined ratio was 97% compared to 101% in the prior year. The third quarter and nine month results reflected approximately $80 million of pretax net losses related to Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Alan I. Kirshner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, commented, "While the losses suffered as a result of unprecedented hurricane activity during the third quarter have impacted our financial results, we are pleased to report that our business continues to generate strong underwriting profits."

In evaluating its operating performance, the Company focuses on core underwriting and investing results (core operations) before consideration of realized gains or losses, amortization expenses and nonrecurring items (these measures do not replace operating income (loss) or net income (loss) computed in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles as a measure of profitability). The Company believes that this measure provides meaningful information about the performance of its core underwriting and investing activities. The Company's definition of core operations may not be comparable to that used by other companies. Following is a comparison of 2004 and 2003 results on a per diluted share basis, except for book value per common share outstanding (shares in thousands).



                                  Quarter Ended           Nine Months Ended
                                  September 30,             September 30,

                                 2004         2003         2004         2003
    Core operations             $1.00       $(1.19)      $10.80        $5.90
    Realized gains (losses)     (0.02)        0.49          .46         2.36
    Amortization expense            -            -            -        (0.27)
    Nonrecurring tax benefit     0.42            -         0.42            -
    Diluted net income (loss)   $1.40       $(1.68)      $11.68        $7.99
    Weighted average diluted
     shares                     9,854        9,845        9,855        9,859



                                           September 30,         December 31,
                                               2004                 2003
    Book value per common share
     outstanding                              $152.93              $140.38

    Common shares outstanding                   9,847                9,847

Third quarter income from core operations was $1.00 per share in 2004 compared to a loss of $1.19 per share for 2003. For the nine months ended September 30, 2004, income from core operations was $10.80 per share compared to income from core operations of $5.90 per share for the same period in 2003. The increase in both periods of 2004 was due to improved underwriting results in the Excess and Surplus Lines, Specialty Admitted and Other segments compared to 2003.

Book value increased 9% to $152.93 per share primarily as a result of $115.1 million of net income for the nine months ended September 30, 2004.

Comprehensive income was $69.8 million for the third quarter of 2004 compared to comprehensive loss of $27.7 million for the same period of 2003. The improvement was primarily due to an increase in the market value of the Company's investment portfolio and higher net income as a result of improved underwriting performance in the third quarter of 2004 compared to the same period of 2003. For the nine months ended September 30, 2004, comprehensive income was $122.4 million compared to $142.1 million in 2003. The decrease in comprehensive income was due to lower unrealized gains on the investment portfolio for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 compared to the same period of 2003 partially offset by higher net income as a result of a return to underwriting profits in 2004.



                                        -Combined Ratio Analysis- (1)
                                    Quarter Ended          Nine Months Ended
                                    September 30,            September 30,
                                  2004         2003       2004          2003
    Excess and Surplus Lines       91%          99%        86%           92%
    Specialty Admitted             89%          90%        88%           93%
    London Insurance Market       138%         101%       119%          102%
    Other                         139%         783%       145%          488%
    Consolidated                  106%         110%        97%          101%

The combined ratios for the Excess and Surplus Lines segment improved for both the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2004 and included approximately $26 million of net losses related to the 2004 hurricanes. The improvement for both periods was due to more favorable development of prior years' loss reserves in 2004 compared to 2003. In 2003, underwriting results included a $50 million increase in prior years' loss reserves at the Investors Brokered Excess and Surplus Lines unit.

The Specialty Admitted segment produced improved underwriting results for the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2004 compared to the same periods of 2003. The combined ratios for the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2004 included approximately $9 million of net losses from the 2004 hurricanes. The Specialty Admitted segment continues to benefit from lower current year losses, more favorable development of prior years' loss reserves and lower expense ratios.

The London Insurance Market segment's combined ratios for the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2004 included approximately $45 million of net losses for the 2004 hurricanes and an $8.0 million provision for dispute resolution. The underwriting loss for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 also included $30.0 million of loss reserve increases reported during the first quarter of 2004.

The underwriting loss from Other was $4.0 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2004 compared to $55.9 million for 2003. The Other underwriting loss for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 was $10.6 million compared to $74.5 million for the same period of 2003. During the third quarter of 2004, the Company completed a review of asbestos and environmental exposures in both its U.S. and international operations. While the legal environment and process for resolving asbestos and environmental claims continues to be adverse, no adjustments to loss reserves resulted from this review. The third quarter of 2003 included $55.0 million of reserve increases for asbestos and environmental exposures.



                                           -Premium Analysis-
                                      Quarter Ended September 30,
                                         (Dollars in thousands)
                             Gross Written Premiums         Earned Premiums

                                2004        2003           2004         2003
    Excess and Surplus Lines  $374,137    $398,581       $290,842     $266,800
    Specialty Admitted          89,953      81,095         68,632       60,467
    London Insurance Market    170,467     183,184        152,145      140,538
    Other                        5,214       8,574         10,366        8,190
         Total                $639,771    $671,434       $521,985     $475,995



                                           -Premium Analysis-
                                    Nine Months Ended September 30,
                                         (Dollars in thousands)
                               Gross Written Premiums       Earned Premiums

                                  2004         2003         2004        2003
    Excess and Surplus Lines  $1,114,808    $1,135,992    $857,512    $750,716
    Specialty Admitted           235,728       212,533     196,373     172,541
    London Insurance Market      548,139       548,762     465,517     404,753
    Other                         38,730        37,738      23,401      19,211
         Total                $1,937,405    $1,935,025  $1,542,803  $1,347,221

Gross written premium for the third quarter of 2004 declined 5% compared to the same period of 2003. For the nine months ended September 30, 2004, gross written premium was flat compared to last year. The Company has experienced some market pressure to reduce prices in select lines of business on both new and renewal accounts. When the Company believes the prevailing market rates will not support its underwriting profit targets, the business is not written. The Company will not sacrifice underwriting profits to achieve top line growth and expects 2004 gross premium volume to be flat or slightly down compared to 2003.

Net written premium was $525.4 million for the third quarter of 2004 compared to $523.8 million for the same period of 2003. For the nine months ended September 30, 2004, net written premium was $1.6 billion compared to $1.5 billion in 2003. Net retention of gross written premium has increased, consistent with the Company's strategy to retain more of its underwriting profits. Net retention of gross written premium for the third quarter of 2004 was 82% compared to 78% for 2003. For the nine months ended September 30, 2004 net retention of gross written premium was 82% compared to 76% for the same period of 2003. The increase was primarily due to changes in the mix of premium writings and purchasing less reinsurance in both the Excess and Surplus Lines and the London Insurance Market segments during 2004 compared to 2003.

Earned premium for the third quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2004 increased 10% and 15%, respectively, compared to the same periods of 2003. This increase in both periods of 2004 is due to higher gross premium volume over the past two years and higher retentions compared to 2003 in all segments.

Third quarter 2004 net investment income was $51.2 million compared to $46.4 million in the prior year. Net investment income for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 was $147.9 million compared to $137.1 million in 2003. In both periods of 2004, a larger investment portfolio offset lower investment yields.

Net realized losses for the quarter ended September 30, 2004 were $0.3 million compared to $7.4 million in 2003. For the nine months ended September 30, 2004, net realized gains were $6.9 million compared to $35.8 million for the same period last year. Variability in the timing of realized and unrealized investment gains and losses is to be expected.

During the quarter ended September 30, 2004, the Company's 2000 federal income tax year was closed. As a result, management determined that tax liabilities were $22.5 million less than previously estimated. The Company recognized a nonrecurring tax benefit of $4.1 million, reduced goodwill related to the Markel International acquisition by $14.7 million and increased additional paid in capital related to closed stock option plans by $3.7 million. Without regard to the nonrecurring benefit, the Company's estimated annual effective tax rate was 29% for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 compared to 33% for the same period in 2003. The Company's estimated annual effective rate differs from the statutory tax rate of 35% primarily as a result of tax exempt investment income.

At September 30, 2004, the Company's investment portfolio increased approximately 11% to $5.9 billion from $5.3 billion at December 31, 2003. The Company reported net unrealized gains, net of taxes, on its fixed maturity and equity investments of $279.1 million at September 30, 2004 compared to $270.8 million at December 31, 2003. Equity securities were $1.1 billion and $968.8 million, respectively, and represented 18% of the total investment portfolio at both September 30, 2004 and December 31, 2003.

Net cash provided by operating activities was $493.9 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 compared to $450.8 million for the same period in 2003. During the third quarter of 2004, the Company completed a public offering of $200 million of 7.35% senior notes due August 2034. The proceeds were used to repay $110 million outstanding under the Company's revolving credit facility and the remainder will be used for general corporate purposes.

In September 2004, the Financial Accounting Standards Board's Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF) reached a consensus on EITF Issue No. 04-8 (Issue No. 04-8) which addresses the effect of contingently convertible instruments on diluted earnings per share. The Company's convertible notes payable are considered to be a contingently convertible instrument based upon the criteria established by Issue No. 04-8. When Issue No. 04-8 becomes effective, the Company will be required to restate previously reported diluted earnings per share. It is anticipated this rule will take effect during the fourth quarter of 2004. If the proposed accounting treatment for the convertible notes payable had been in effect at the end of the third quarter, the Company's diluted earnings per share for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 would be further diluted by approximately 2%.

This is a "Safe Harbor" statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. It also contains general cautionary statements regarding the Company's business, estimates and management assumptions. Future actual results may materially differ from those in these statements because of many factors. Among other things, the impact of the events of September 11, 2001 will depend on the number of insureds and reinsureds affected by the events, the amount and timing of losses incurred and reported and questions of how coverage applies. The occurrence of additional terrorist activities could have a material impact on the Company and the insurance industry. The Company's anticipated premium volume is based on current knowledge and assumes no significant man-made or natural catastrophes, no significant changes in products or personnel and no adverse changes in market conditions. The Company is legally required to offer terrorism insurance and has attempted to manage its exposure. However, in the event of a covered terrorist attack, the Company could sustain material losses. Changing legal and social trends and inherent uncertainties (including but not limited to those uncertainties associated with the Company's asbestos and environmental reserves) in the loss estimation process can adversely impact the adequacy of loss reserves and the allowance for reinsurance recoverables. In addition, industry and economic conditions can affect the ability and/or willingness of reinsurers to pay balances due. The Company continues to closely monitor discontinued lines and reinsurance programs and exposures. Adverse experience in these areas could lead to additional charges. Regulatory actions can impede the Company's ability to charge adequate rates and efficiently allocate capital. Economic conditions, interest rates, foreign exchange rate volatility and concentration of investments can have a significant impact on the market value of fixed maturity and equity investments as well as the carrying value of other assets and liabilities. The Company's premium growth, underwriting and investment results have been and will continue to be potentially materially affected by these factors. Additional factors, which could affect the Company, are discussed in the Company's reports on Forms 8-K, 10-Q and 10-K. By making these forward looking statements, the Company is not intending to become obligated to publicly update or revise any forward looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or other changes. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward looking statements, which speak only as at their dates.

The quarterly conference call, which will involve discussion of the third quarter financial results and may include forward-looking information, will be held Thursday, October 28, 2004 at approximately 10:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Any person interested in listening to the call, or a replay of the call, which will be available approximately two hours after the conclusion of the call until Friday, November 5, 2004, should contact Markel's Investor Relations Department at 804-747-0136. Investors, analysts and the general public may also listen to the call free over the Internet through Markel Corporation's corporate web site, http://www.markelcorp.com. A replay of the call will also be available on this web site until Friday, November 5, 2004.

The webcast, the conference call and the content and permitted replays or rebroadcasts thereof, are the exclusive copyrighted property of Markel Corporation and may not be copied, taped, rebroadcast, or published in whole or in part without the express written consent of Markel Corporation.

(1) Management considers both the combined ratio and the actual dollars of underwriting profit (loss) in evaluating the operating performance of its reporting segments. Investment decisions are not made within the underwriting segments. A reconciliation of segment profit (loss) to consolidated operating income is set forth below.

Markel Corporation markets and underwrites specialty insurance products and programs to a variety of niche markets. In each of these markets, the Company seeks to provide quality products and excellent customer service so that it can be a market leader. The financial goals of the Company are to earn consistent underwriting profits and superior investment returns to build shareholder value.

                       MARKEL CORPORATION AND SUBSIDIARIES

      Consolidated Statements of Operations and Comprehensive Income (Loss)

                                    Quarter Ended        Nine Months Ended
                                    September 30,          September 30,
                                   2004       2003       2004         2003
                                (dollars in thousands, except per share data)
    OPERATING REVENUES
    Earned premiums              $521,985   $475,995  $1,542,803   $1,347,221
    Net investment income          51,222     46,379     147,910      137,079
    Net realized gains (losses)
     from investment sales           (253)    (7,360)      6,937       35,843
       Total Operating Revenues   572,954    515,014   1,697,650    1,520,143

    OPERATING EXPENSES
    Losses and loss adjustment
     expenses                     381,802    378,868   1,009,930      938,820
    Underwriting, acquisition
     and insurance expenses       169,255    147,102     491,012      420,895
    Amortization of intangible
     assets                             -          -           -        4,127
       Total Operating Expenses   551,057    525,970   1,500,942    1,363,842
       Operating Income (Loss)     21,897    (10,956)    196,708      156,301
    Interest expense               14,495     13,720      40,317       38,756
       Income (Loss) Before
        Income Taxes                7,402    (24,676)    156,391      117,545
    Income tax expense (benefit)   (6,423)    (8,143)     41,253       38,790
       Net Income (Loss)          $13,825   $(16,533)   $115,138      $78,755

    OTHER COMPREHENSIVE INCOME
     (LOSS)
    Unrealized gains (losses) on
     securities, net of taxes
       Net holding gains
        (losses) arising
        during the period         $56,133   $(13,224)    $12,805      $82,705
       Less reclassification
        adjustments for
        gains (losses) included
        in net income (loss)          165      4,784      (4,509)     (23,298)
       Net unrealized gains
        (losses)                   56,298     (8,440)      8,296       59,407
    Currency translation
     adjustments, net of taxes       (289)    (2,750)     (1,000)       3,975
       Total Other Comprehensive
        Income (Loss)              56,009    (11,190)      7,296       63,382
       Comprehensive Income
        (Loss)                    $69,834   $(27,723)   $122,434     $142,137

    NET INCOME (LOSS) PER SHARE
       Basic                        $1.40     ($1.68)     $11.69        $8.00
       Diluted                      $1.40     ($1.68)     $11.68        $7.99


    Selected Data
    (dollars and shares in thousands,               September 30, December 31,
     except per share data)                              2004         2003

    Total investments and cash                        $5,918,506   $5,349,952
    Reinsurance recoverable on paid and unpaid
     losses                                            1,731,242    1,770,607
    Intangible assets                                    342,617      357,317
    Total assets                                       9,094,503    8,532,233
    Unpaid losses and loss adjustment expenses         5,347,851    4,929,713
    Unearned premiums                                  1,069,305    1,060,188
    Convertible notes payable                             93,829       90,601
    Long-term debt                                       609,761      521,510
    8.71% Junior Subordinated Debentures                 150,000      150,000
    Total shareholders' equity                         1,505,950    1,382,279
    Book value per share                                 $152.93      $140.38
    Common shares outstanding                              9,847        9,847



                              Markel Corporation
                        Segment Reporting Disclosures
      For the Quarters and Nine Months Ended September 30, 2004 and 2003

                        Segment Gross Written Premium

    Quarter Ended September 30,                Nine Months Ended September 30,
      2004      2003     (dollars in thousands)           2004       2003
    $374,137  $398,581  Excess and Surplus Lines      $1,114,808 $1,135,992
      89,953    81,095  Specialty Admitted               235,728    212,533
     170,467   183,184  London Insurance Market          548,139    548,762
       5,214     8,574  Other                             38,730     37,738
    $639,771  $671,434        Consolidated            $1,937,405 $1,935,025

                         Segment Net Written Premium

    Quarter Ended September 30,                Nine Months Ended September 30,
      2004      2003     (dollars in thousands)           2004       2003
    $292,134  $291,435  Excess and Surplus Lines        $870,499   $812,910
      85,312    76,991  Specialty Admitted               222,527    199,778
     142,906   150,257  London Insurance Market          457,018    435,846
       5,053     5,101  Other                             31,293     26,084
    $525,405  $523,784        Consolidated            $1,581,337 $1,474,618

                               Segment Revenues

    Quarter Ended September 30,                Nine Months Ended September 30,
      2004      2003     (dollars in thousands)           2004       2003
    $290,842  $266,800  Excess and Surplus Lines        $857,512   $750,716
      68,632    60,467  Specialty Admitted               196,373    172,541
     152,145   140,538  London Insurance Market          465,517    404,753
      50,969    39,019  Investing                        154,847    172,922
      10,366     8,190  Other                             23,401     19,211
    $572,954  $515,014        Consolidated            $1,697,650 $1,520,143

                   Reconciliation of Segment Profit (Loss)
                       to Consolidated Operating Income

    Quarter Ended September 30,                Nine Months Ended September 30,
      2004      2003     (dollars in thousands)           2004       2003
     $25,031    $1,502  Excess and Surplus Lines        $118,958    $58,171
       7,912     6,081  Specialty Admitted                22,601     11,809
     (58,008)   (1,645) London Insurance Market          (89,143)    (7,966)
      50,969    39,019  Investing                        154,847    172,922
      (4,007)  (55,913) Other                            (10,555)   (74,508)
         -         -    Amortization of Intangible Assets    -       (4,127)
     $21,897  $(10,956)       Consolidated              $196,708   $156,301

                               Combined Ratios
    Quarter Ended September 30,                Nine Months Ended September 30,
      2004      2003                                      2004       2003
         91%        99% Excess and Surplus Lines             86%         92%
         89%        90% Specialty Admitted                   88%         93%
        138%       101% London Insurance Market             119%        102%
        139%       783% Other                               145%        488%
        106%       110%         Consolidated                 97%        101%

SOURCE: Markel Corporation

CONTACT: Bruce Kay of Markel Corporation, +1-804-747-0136

Web site: http://www.markelcorp.com