New business is stable overall despite a 10% fall in France

AXA’s motor revenues rocketed 31% in the first quarter of this year, helped by double-digit rate increases and higher volumes from Swiftcover and AXA Direct.

But the growth compared to last year’s first quarter was offset by a muted performance in commercial, where motor revenues fell 4% and non-motor 14%, as the insurer scaled back business it deemed unprofitable.

Overall, UK general insurance business increased 1.4%, from £968m to £982m.

Revenues from AXA Group, its worldwide operations, remained broadly the same at €9.24bn (£8bn). AXA said it had pushed up rates by around 2%, but these were offset by lower volumes in the commercial lines sector.

The lower volumes were a result of AXA’s decision to scale back the amount of business it wrote, as the board became concerned about unprofitable books. The insurer also suffered from fewer premiums coming through as companies struggled in the downturn.

Overall group revenue, which included life assurance and investments, rose 1.1% to €27.9bn. According to a Reuters analyst poll, the result missed an average forecast of €28.4bn.

The company said that new business was stable, with strong performance in Italy and the UK helping to offset a 10% fall in France.

Chairman Henri de Castries said: “In property and casualty, price increases accelerated in the first quarter in most countries, and we remain confident in our ability to pursue our repricing actions while exercising selective underwriting.”

“We have started to harvest the benefits of management actions implemented in 2009, and we should benefit from the expected gradual economic recovery,” he added.