Axa Insurance is planning a "controlled exit" from non-motor commercial market in Ireland, Insurance Times understands.

In 1998, the insurer had a total commercial book worth around £270m with the bulk of this coming from its motor business.

But an industry source says the insurer was withdrawing after being badly stung over the past few years.

"They had a lot of losses on their liability book," he said. "The terms of their contracts could have been better, they didn't really do risk surveys and they were not selective in the business they took."

It is thought the non-motor commercial side of Axa's business has dwindled to between £25 and £30m, significantly lower than two years ago.

An Axa source admitted the insurer has suffered heavy losses on the liability side. "We took the view that we wanted to underwrite profitably and we would have had the scale to do that in this market. The liability market has been very difficult," he said.

"The claims environment has been pretty tough because Ireland has become a fundamentally litigious society."

He said the non-motor commercial unit was not in run-off but Axa was carrying out a "controlled exit". No job losses are expected, as many of the teams involved in the sector will transfer to the commercial motor team.