Catlin Group today announced an 11% increase in gross written premiums (GWP) for the first quarter.

The Bermuda-based insurer also said it had taken a $375m first quarter hit from catastrophes.

There was a 10 per cent decrease in gross premiums written by the London/UK hub.

Catlin said in its first quarter statement that rate increases across the piste had been broadly flat, but rises should filter through as the year progresses.

Chief executive Stephen Catlin said: “The first quarter of 2011 will be remembered for the high incidence of catastrophe losses, arising from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the New Zealand earthquake and the floods in Australia.

“This series of catastrophic events is unprecedented so early in a year, and we at Catlin wish to express our sympathy to those who have lost so much due to these natural events.

“We estimate that Catlin’s losses related to these three events amount to US$375 million, net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums.

"The estimate of US$200 million relating to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami remains uncertain, as the true cost of this tragedy – both in terms of human suffering and property damage – will not be known with any certainty for many months.

"Taken together, we expect these three catastrophes to be an earnings event rather than a capital event. In addition, under the structure of our catastrophe reinsurance programme, much of the losses from another major catastrophic event – such as an Atlantic windstorm – will be recoverable.

“Rates for certain classes of business are starting to rise following the first-quarter catastrophes. In the light of the more than US$50 billion in natural catastrophe losses incurred since the beginning of this year – including the damage from tornadoes in the United States in April – combined with the prolonged low investment return environment, it would be totally appropriate for rates to increase on a widespread basis.

“Catlin is well-positioned to take advantage of underwriting opportunities as they develop. The long-term investment in our international hub structure gives us the resources with which to increase volume quickly in all regions of the world when market conditions do improve.

"In the meantime, we will continue to underwrite prudently, taking advantage of opportunities produced by our global underwriting presence but refusing to write business that does not meet our standards. Our first-quarter performance – an 11 per cent overall increase in gross premiums written, but a 10 per cent decrease in gross premiums written by our London/UK hub – demonstrates this strategy.

“I believe Catlin is in an excellent position, and we continue to look ahead with confidence.”

Highlights at 31 March 2011

• 11 per cent increase in gross premiums written

• 52 per cent of total gross premiums written by non-London/UK underwriting hubs

• 10 per cent decrease in gross premiums written by London/UK hub

• Average weighted premium rates across Group’s underwriting portfolio broadly flat

• Estimate of US$375 million in losses from first-quarter catastrophes unchanged

• 0.4 per cent year-to-date total investment return

• Investment portfolio remains liquid and defensively positioned