Hunt for acquisitions begins as insurer reports record half-year profits

Groupama is to go on the acquisition trail after emerging from its long period of restructuring and consolidation.

The announcement came as the insurer published its interim results and predicted it was set for a "record year".

Profits soared by 43% to £16.5m in the first half of 2005, while revenues increased by 6% on the same period in 2004.

Groupama managing director François-Xavier Boisseau said: "2005 looks like continuing the progress of the past two years. We will now look at opportunities for acquisition and growth. We are ready to look at smaller portfolios, provided they fit in with our strategy."

He said the company would consider buying niche market brokers provided there was a "fit".

Going forward, Boisseau said that the company would be making a major push on its healthcare business in order to achieve a "critical mass" of £100m in premium from the current £34m.

He said that since the company restructured its healthcare distribution strategy, it had "written more new private medical insurance business in two months than in the whole of 2004".

Commercial lines business performed strongly, with revenues increasing by 50% on the same period in 2004.

Boisseau put the increase down to growth in extranet sales and its relationships with specialist scheme brokers. He denied the company had to cut rates in order to achieve that level of growth.

Personal lines profit increased by 46% on the same period in 2004. Private motor revenues increased by 5.6% with profits up by 60%.

But the insurer saw household revenues fall "mainly due to the closure of Hill House Hammond", although Boisseau said that the company was "clawing this back".

Groupama half-year results
Groupama has won the tender to underwrite a major scheme for wholesale broker Premier Underwriting.

The scheme, which covers non-standard private car and van insurance, is expected to produce approximately £14m of new premium income over the next two years, the insurer said.

Kate Mutter, head of intermediary solutions at Groupama, said: "This is a great opportunity that will give us access to a substantial volume of business in an area where we have been widening our underwriting footprint."