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UPDATE 1-Genworth profit beats estimate on strong U.S. mortgage business

Tuesday, 4 Feb 2014 | 6:09 PM ET

* 4th-qtr net profit $208 mln vs $168 mln year earlier

* 4th-qtr operating profit $0.38/share vs est $0.30

* U.S. mortgage insurance swings to profit of $6 mln

* Shares up more than 4 pct after bell

Feb 4 (Reuters) - Life and mortgage insurer Genworth Financial Inc reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as a recovery in housing markets helped its U.S. mortgage insurance business.

Shares of Genworth, which was spun off from industrial conglomerate General Electric Co ten years ago, rose more than 4 percent in extended trading.

The company's U.S. mortgage insurance business posted an operating income of $6 million for the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $32 million a year earlier.

Mortgage insurers such as Genworth, Radian Group Inc and MGIC Investment Corp struggled to recoup losses after the housing bubble burst and foreclosures soared, leaving them with large claims on unpaid home loans.

However, the companies that survived the crunch have benefited from a recovering U.S. housing market as low mortgage rates prompt more Americans to buy homes.

Net operating income in Genworth's long-term care insurance rose to $42 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 from $7 million a year earlier.

Rival MGIC posted a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss last month as fewer U.S. homeowners defaulted in a recovering housing market.

Genworth said net income available to common shareholders rose to $208 million, or 41 cents per share, from $168 million, or 34 cents per share.

This was Genworth's ninth straight quarterly profit.

Total revenue fell about 2.2 percent to $2.41 billion.

On an operating basis, Genworth earned 38 cents per share. Analysts on average had expected 30 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Mortgage insurers cover losses when homeowners default and foreclosures fail to recoup costs. Typically, coverage is required when homeowners make a downpayment of less than 20 percent on a property.

Shares of Genworth, which has a market value of more than $7 billion, closed at $14.53 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

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