Also in the news this week ...

Admiral shares surge

Admiral’s share price received a pre-Christmas surge on rumours of a £4.8bn takeover from Zurich Financial. On 20 December, the share price rose 10p to 1,561p. The price peaked the following day at 1,574p before dropping back to 1,560p. Founder Henry Engelhardt has around £592m tied up in the business. Zurich bought into AIG’s auto insurance business last year, although it has scaled back its capacity in the UK with rate rises of 20% last year. Both Admiral and Zurich said they would not comment on market speculation.

All change for Westinsure

Ink Underwriting is relocating the head office of its recent Westinsure Group acquisition and three Westinsure staff are in redundancy talks. The group will now operate from Ink’s Rayleigh, Essex, office. Westinsure head of sales Andy Waring has resigned.

RBS sheds bike broker

RBS Insurance has sold its specialist motorcycle broker Devitt Insurance Services to its senior management team, led by managing director William Hughes. The Devitt team will take over the offices in Romford and Ipswich. RBSI managing director of sales, service and partnerships Darrell Evans said Devitt no longer fit the company’s strategic direction.

Cobra profits soar 14%

Cobra Holdings said it was “well placed to ride out current market conditions” after posting a 14% increase in pre-tax profits to £390,000. Revenues rose 2.1% to £11.98m for the six months to 30 September, compared with the same period last year. The strongest performer in the company was Cobra Network, whose revenues soared 18%, followed by Cobra London Markets (up 15%) and Cobra Underwriting (up 10%). Cobra said it made no acquisitions during the period, instead focusing on operating efficiencies.

FSA breaks fines record

The FSA handed down a record-breaking £88.4m in fines during 2010 (to 20 December), outstripping the record of £34.8m it set last year by 154%, according to City law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain. RPC partner Jonathan Davies said the figures highlight the FSA’s more aggressive approach. “The FSA has had new political masters to impress this year, but we may have reached the point where this level of regulation could be having a negative effect on the financial services sector.” The number of fines more than doubled to 88 from 40 last year.