Collapse of Woolworths is contributing factor

Euler Hermes, the world’s biggest trade credit insurer, has reported a net loss of €68m (£59.6m) for the fourth quarter of 2008 after being hit by the collapse of Woolworths.

The French company paid out claims to suppliers left without payment when the high-street chain went into administration last December.

Full-year net profit for 2008 was €83.6m, down 79.5% from 2007, the company said.

Clemens von Weichs, its chairman, said: “This rise in claims weighs on the group’s profitability through a sharp fall in its technical result.

“Strict cost control and solid financial income nonetheless enabled Euler Hermes to record positive net income of €83.6m in 2008.”

Turnover was €2.167bn in 2008, up 3.2% on the 2007 figure of €2.099bn.