Insurer boosted by £150m rights issue

Lloyd’s insurer Beazley reported a 15% rise in profit before income tax to £100.7m for the year ending 31 December 2009.

Gross written premium was up 27% to £1.12bn and combined ratio was stable at 90%. Investment performance recovered to post a return of £56.1m, following a loss in 2008.

The insurer released £67.2m from its prior-year reserves, compared to £72.8m in 2008. Its claims ratio was 55%.

Beazley chief executive Andrew Horton said: “Sustained profitability through changing market conditions has long distinguished Beazley’s performance. Our underwriters delivered again in 2009, recording a very strong underwriting result, particularly in our marine and reinsurance accounts.

“We took a number of steps in 2009 to ensure that, as profitable growth opportunities emerge in the future, we will be ready to grasp them. In particular, our £150m rights issue reinforced our underwriting capabilities at Lloyd’s and funded the successful acquisition of First State Management Group, a US insurer of commercial property risks.

“In 2010, insurers and reinsurers will be fortunate to experience a repeat of the past year’s low incidence of catastrophe losses. Rates for catastrophe-exposed business have fallen but remain relatively high.

“In the specialty lines market, mainly comprising professional indemnity business, we expect rates to rise modestly in 2010, driven by recession-related losses in some areas, low investment income and inflationary threats.

“Our diverse book of business in this class and strong track record in cycle management enabled us to navigate a challenging market in 2009 and we are well placed to benefit from any rate rises that occur.”