Ascot chief Martin Reith has questioning Lloyd’s fixation on China, warning that commercial opportunities in the country may be overstated.

Reith said he was puzzled by the focus on China when having a presence in other markets made more commercial sense for UK companies.

He said: “I’m not convinced there is profitable business in China at the moment.”

He said China favoured domestic companies over foreign ones and that Lloyd’s, which recently opened its China

reinsurance division in Shanghai, was likely to be placed at the bottom of the pecking order.

The reluctance of Ascot to embrace China and focus instead on other markets such as Singapore flies in the face of the current industry trend.

Since China opened its doors to foreign non-life insurers in 2003, there has been a frenzy of UK companies eager to get their slice of the pie including, Munich Re, Swiss Re, Hannover Re, Zurich Financial Services, ACE and brokers Willis, Marsh and Aon.

A Lloyd’s spokesman said China was one of the world’s fastest growing economies and that it was unthinkable for the market not to have a presence there.

“We have always said that it will enable the market to realise the benefits of China’s growth over the long-term, but it is vital that we develop a strong foothold there now.”