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Markel Reports Third Quarter and Nine-Month Results
Date:11/4/2008

RICHMOND, Va., Nov. 4 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Markel Corporation (NYSE: MKL) reported diluted net loss per share of $14.46 for the quarter ended September 30, 2008 compared to diluted net income per share of $9.26 for the third quarter of 2007. Diluted net loss per share was $2.63 for the nine months ended September 30, 2008 compared to diluted net income per share of $31.28 for the same period of 2007. The results for both periods of 2008 reflect lower investment returns and less favorable underwriting results compared to the same periods of 2007.

Alan I. Kirshner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, commented, "Our third quarter and year-to-date results have been negatively impacted by the ongoing financial market turmoil, difficult underwriting conditions and recent hurricane activity. Our financial strength provides a solid foundation for us to capitalize on growth opportunities presented by today's marketplace. We are continuing to emphasize our underwriting standards and are increasing prices for many of our products in response to market conditions."

The combined ratio for the third quarter of 2008 was 124% compared to 87% for the third quarter of 2007. The combined ratio for the nine months ended September 30, 2008 was 104% compared to 88% for the same period of 2007. The combined ratio for the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2008 included $115.1 million, or 22 points and 8 points, respectively, of underwriting loss related to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Net realized investment losses for the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2008 were $168.7 million and $200.2 million, respectively, compared to net realized investment gains of $3.0 million and $64.7 million, respectively, for the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2007. Net realized investment losses include both losses from the sale of securities and losses classified as other-than-temporarily impaired. Net realized investment losses for the third quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2008 included $94.6 million and $187.1 million, respectively, of write downs for other-than-temporary declines in the estimated fair value of investments.

During the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2008, the Company's pre-tax net unrealized investment gains decreased $19.8 million and $374.6 million, respectively. For the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2008, the aggregate of net realized investment losses and the decrease in pre-tax net unrealized investment gains totaled $188.5 million and $574.8 million, respectively. The aggregate unfavorable movement in the value of the Company's investment portfolio during the third quarter of 2008 represented approximately 3% of the Company's average invested assets for the quarter, while the aggregate year-to-date unfavorable movement represented approximately 8% of the Company's average invested assets for the year.

Book value per common share outstanding decreased 11% to $235.72 at September 30, 2008 from $265.26 at December 31, 2007. The decline in book value was primarily due to a decline in the market value of the Company's investment portfolio and underwriting losses for the nine months ended September 30, 2008.

Losses from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the aggregate of net realized investment losses and pre-tax decrease in net unrealized investment gains were in line with the Company's estimates included in its press release on October 9, 2008. However, net realized investment losses for the third quarter of 2008 increased from the Company's preliminary estimate of $116 million. The increase in net realized investment losses was related to equity securities, principally General Electric Company and International Game Technology, that were deemed to have other-than-temporary declines in estimated fair value. This determination was made in conjunction with the completion of the Company's quarterly review of its investment portfolio for other-than-temporary impairment and reflects a more in-depth analysis of the financial condition and near-term prospects of these two issuers. The losses associated with these equity securities were initially included in the Company's preliminary estimate of the decrease in net unrealized investment gains, net of taxes, at September 30, 2008. As a result, the Company's preliminary estimate of aggregate net realized investment losses and decreases in pre-tax net unrealized investment gains was unchanged.

The Company also announced today it has filed its Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2008 with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A copy of the Form 10-Q is available on the Company's website at http://www.markelcorp.com or on the SEC website at http://www.sec.gov. Readers are urged to review the Form 10-Q for a more complete discussion of the Company's financial performance. The Company's quarterly conference call, which will involve discussion of the Company's financial results and business developments and may include forward-looking information, will be held Wednesday, November 5, 2008, beginning at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Any person interested in listening to the call, or a replay of the call, which will be available from approximately two hours after the conclusion of the call until Saturday, November 15, 2008, should contact Markel's Investor Relations Department at 804-747-0136. Investors, analysts and the general public also may listen to the call free over the Internet through the Company's web site, http://www.markelcorp.com.

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.


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SOURCE Markel Corporation
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