Chicago Cub baseball legend Ernie Banks was famous for saying, "It's a great day for a ball game. Let's play two." The quote expresses how I feel about Ullico's performance in 2018. In other words, let's have another year, just like last year. I recently reported our great news at our shareholders meeting. Let me give you a synopsis.
We had a return on equity of 19.3%, an increase in book value of 14.7%, and $31.2 million in net income. During 2018, we covered 2 million union members under our Group Life policies, which were renewed at a rate of 93%. And we've paid $16 million in group stop loss dividends since inception to participating Health and Welfare funds. Professional liability premiums reached a record $60.8 million with a 97% renewal rate, and we had $3.2 million in new professional liability business.
J for Jobs committed $1.4 billion in project financing and generated jobs, hours, and personal income for union members and contractors, including the ribbon cutting on the new TWA Hotel at JFK in New York. Ullico's Infrastructure Fund (UIF) finished the year with over $1.5 billion in assets under management (AUM) and a portfolio that includes 14 completed transactions, covering over 200 assets, and it is part of the coalition to redevelop JFK's Terminal One, one of the largest P3s in America.
All three business units were profitable in 2018, which is a great reflection on our board, senior management, our incredible employees, and made possible by our only customers — the labor movement.
The first quarter numbers for 2019 demonstrate a continuation of the momentum we established last year. We planned for $4.5 million in operating earnings and reported $8.9 million. In fact, each business unit outperformed its plan. AUM surpassed $6 billion for the first time since the early 2000s, and the Infrastructure Fund AUM increased to $1.5 billion, providing a further indication of sustained progress for the company.
Like the labor movement that we serve, our goal each year is to grow. We want to grow our business and to bring new products to market that meet our test of providing timely solutions for the union workplace. In addition to product development, the real secret to our success is the commitment to understand our market and provide an unmatched level of service to union members and their families, a commitment that is reflected in our renewal rates.
I promise you that we will work hard every day to earn your business, and continue to grow and serve the labor movement. Have a great summer.
Edward M. Smith
President and CEO