But insurer's GWP falls by $52m

Markel International has reported a combined ratio of 91% and an annualised investment return in excess of 10% for the year ended December 31 2009.

The insurer was boosted by continued strong underwriting and investment performance which supported a 27% increase in book value of parent company Markel Corporation in 2009.

However Markel reported a reduction in gross written premiums to $641m for 2009 from $693m in 2008. The insurer said that at constant exchange rates premium income was in line with 2008. Markel also reported a combined ratio of 91% for 2009 compared to 104% in 2008.

Andy Davies, finance director at Markel International, said: “The excellent underwriting results for 2009 reflect minimal catastrophe losses in 2009 compared to 2008 and increased reserve redundancies on the 2003 to 2006 accident years.

"The investment portfolio of both Markel Corporation and Markel International generated annualised returns of 10% for 2009. The strong performance was primarily due to increases in the market value of the corporate bond and equity investment portfolios. The acquisition of Elliott Special Risks and recent key appointments at Markel International reinforce our commitment to profitable growth and the development of a global brand."

Markel Corporation reported comprehensive income of $591m for the year ended December 31 2009, compared to a comprehensive loss of $403m in 2008.

The combined ratio was 95% for the year ended December 31 2009 compared to 99% for the same period in 2008.

Book value per common share increased 27% to $282.55 at December 31 2009 from $222.20 at December 31 2008, which was "primarily driven by improvement in the market value of the company’s investment portfolio".

Alan Kirshner, chairman and chief executive, said: “While 2009 was certainly a volatile year for the financial markets and a challenging year for the economy and the insurance industry, our associates met these challenges and delivered solid underwriting profits and strong investment returns. Their efforts enabled us to grow book value per share to an all time high. We do not expect significant improvement in the insurance market in 2010. However, we are excited about the opportunities we see to provide quality products and services to our customers and build value for our shareholders.”