We’re pleased, but a lot of the growth is the result of currency fluctuations, says chief executive

Hiscox’s overall premium income has shot up 51% to £486.5m for the three months ending 31 March from the £321.3m it posted at the same time in 2008. Meanwhile, its global markets business gross written premiums rose by 43% to £254.7m from the £177.7m it reported in 2008.

Bronek Masojada, the company’s chief executive, said it was pleased with the results but admitted that a big part of the growth was down to currency fluctuations.

“We said last year that big ticket prices were going to go up, particularly in the reinsurance and energy areas, and they have. We are taking advantage of that. We said that we would continue to develop the smaller ticket retail business, which we have also done.”

Hiscox achieved rate increases of 50% in some areas, such as for Gulf of Mexico windstorm exposed business. Other energy rates increased an average of 10%.

“It is huge,” said Masojada. “But it’s for some of the areas that have been recently thumped by hurricanes. It’s the right price – we were selling it too cheap before. So the areas that have seen the most loss have seen the highest rate increases. I think reinsurance rates may go up a little bit from here, but not enormously.”

Masojada said that increases were not across the board. “Business like property remains flat. We are trying to push for rates our end but we are only a small player in our market. Clients are understandably a bit nervous given the tough economic environment.”

Hiscox said its Bermudan business was taking advantage of hardening rates in reinsurance and has doubled gross written premiums to $121.6m (£80.6m), up from $61.3m in 2008.

It said the growth was due to increased rates in the US catastrophe and risk excess markets and opportunities in the pro-rata reinsurance and industry loss warranty markets.

The company also benefited from AM Best’s rating upgrade to A from A-.