Record GWP at heavy price as combined ratio rises to 98.9%

Fortis UK announced record non-life gross written premiums up 6% to £805m from £760m but profit before tax and interest fell to £29m from £76m. It is also confirmed it will rebrand as Ageas.

Its combined operating ratio rose to 98.9% from 92.2% last year. It claimed a 35% growth in commercial lines business and said 85% of brokers now use four or more Fortis products.

Barry Smith, chief executive, said: “Despite the challenging market conditions affecting the industry throughout 2009, we have delivered record levels of premium income and are encouraged by the progress we are making in the broker market.

“We have completed significant deals including the largest insurance partnership in the UK with Tesco Bank, which will accelerate our development in 2010 and beyond. We are now actively recruiting for approximately 600 new jobs to support our continued business growth.


"Furthermore, today we mark a new chapter in our history with the announcement of Fortis’ proposed new name, “ageas”. If Fortis shareholders approve the new name at the end of April, we will be looking to introduce it into the UK by Q1 2011.”

2009 Performance

Fortis blamed reduced profits on an increase in claims from severe weather events and escape of water damage.

Throughout 2009, Fortis said it delivered significant growth in its commercial lines business with GWP increasing 35% to £102m (2008: £75m) as a result of its strategy to broaden both distribution and its product range within the market.

Fortis’ continued development of its household portfolio led to an increase in GWP of 22.7% to £208m (2008: £170m).

Private car GWP was reported at £414m (2008: £459m), reflecting Fortis’ continued focus on achieving profitability in the current difficult market conditions. In response to these conditions, Fortis is continuing to put corrective measures in place such as rate increases.