Insurer plans to grow commercial book, but rules out entry to PI market

Allianz Cornhill is planning an expansion of its commercial book, but will not enter the professional indemnity (PI) market, despite high premiums.

Allianz Cornhill chief executive Andrew Torrance said he was "setting out the stall across the board" for all types of commercial risks, but drew the line at PI.

In a move that will disappoint brokers he said: "What we are eager to do is to grow in commercial lines from the sole trader on the one hand, through global risks business to multinational programmes.

"Our expectation is that, over time, commercial lines will grow relative to personal lines."

Commercial business is already bigger than personal, where first quarter premiums were flat against last year.

Figures from the parent group, Allianz, show the business' profitability soared in the first quarter compared to last year.

In the UK - where Allianz Cornhill accounts for nearly all the group's activities - earnings after tax increased to €63m (£45m) from €4m (£2.85m) in the same period last year.

The combined ratio also showed a healthy improvement, to 94.9% from 103.8% the time before.

Gross written premiums increased by about 6% after allowing for currency fluctuations.

Much of the increase in profitability was a result of last year's poor first quarter, which was hit by gales and large commercial property losses.

Torrance said that by comparison, the first quarter of 2003 was benign.

The Allianz group posted an overall loss of €520m (£371m) down from €1,931m (£1,376m) despite a small increase in net premiums earned to €13,788m (£9,824m) from €13,711m (£9,770m).