Takeover speculation mounts, though shares rise linked to lower-than-expected cat losses

Shares in Chaucer hit a peak of 55.5p this week amid continued rumours of a takeover bid.

When Insurance Times went to press on Tuesday, the Lloyd’s insurer was trading at 51.75p on the London Stock Exchange, a rise of nearly 6% over the week.

Chaucer’s share price hit a peak of 55.5p on Monday, sparking renewed speculation that the insurer was being targeted for takeover.

Chaucer was in talks with Brit Insurance last year about a possible takeover, while private equity company Pamplona Capital was also thought to have been in contention, having reportedly raised its stake from 9.9% to 16%.

But an industry source put Chaucer’s share price rally down to its 29 March announcement that its estimated losses as a result of the Chile earthquake and the European windstorm Xynthia would be £25m.

He described these losses as lower than anticipated.

Chaucer also announced earlier this year that it had made a pre-tax profit of £42m in 2009, compared with a loss of £26.2m in the previous year. Gross written premium was up 15.3% to £795.6m (2008: £689.9m).

Chaucer installed a new management team in December, headed by Robert Stuchbery as chief executive. Stuchbery became underwriting director of Chaucer Syndicates Ltd in April 2000, and he is also chairman of the Lloyd’s market association board underwriting committee.

Chaucer declined to comment on the takeover speculation.