Kiln posted a "market leading" combined ratio of 75% for the first half of 2003.

The Lloyd's-based insurance group reported pre-tax profits of £15m, 329% up on the £3.5m it made in the same period last year and nearly half as much again as it made in the whole of 2002.

Its claims ratio for the period was 43% and the company said it would ride out Hurricane Isabel and other storms without major loss.

Underwriting director Robert Chase said the storm was unlikely to break through more than two of Kiln's seven vertical layers of catastrophe protection.

Chase was speaking before Isabel tore into the US eastern seaboard late last week, causing about 25 deaths and widespread devastation,

This month's typhoon in South Korea, which killed 91, and Hurricane Fabian, which pounded Bermuda, were unlikely to generate losses much higher than about £500,000 for Kiln.

Chief executive Edward Creasy announced a "modest" 0.2p interim dividend. This failed to lift the share price, which fell 0.58% to 86p on 18 September when the results were announced.

Earnings per share were 5.03p, up 110% from 2.39p.

The group booked a £3m actual investment return in the period, up from £1.7m, and said it had entirely purged equities from its £251m portfolio to hold 83% in fixed-interest securities and 17% in cash.

Finance director Peter Haynes said a decision would be made before the end of the year on whether to hedge against US dollar exchange rate volatility.

Chase said rates were still rising, with marine leading the way.

Within aviation, improvements in classes such as helicopters and general aviation outweighed price reductions in the airline book.

  • Kiln has transferred its mainframe-based underwriting systems to Eclipse, a processing and management system developed by specialist IT provider Sequel Busi-ness Solutions. Kiln said all its areas of operation now used the system.