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American Financial Q4 earnings down

American Financial Group has reported net earnings of $38.6 million

American Financial Group has reported net earnings of $38.6 million, or $0.32 per share, for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2008, compared to $89.9 million, or $0.76 per share, for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2007.

Core net operating earnings were $121.7 million, $1.04 per share, for the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to $143.6 million, or $1.21 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2007.

For the year ended December 31, 2008, net earnings were $195.8 million, or $1.67 per share, compared to $383.2 million, or $3.10 per share, for the year ended December 31, 2007. Core net operating earnings were $476.8 million, or $4.08 per share, for 2008, compared to $486.4 million, or $3.94 per share, for 2007.

Carl Lindner III, co-CEO and president of American Financial Group, said: Looking into 2009, we expect to produce strong underwriting profits, and forecast an overall combined ratio in the 88% to 91% range. Because of our strong underwriting culture, we will continue to focus on maintaining adequate rates; our objective is to achieve a flat to slight increase in the specialty group’s overall average renewal rates in 2009.