AXA increases underlying earnings to £77m

AXA Insurance reported underlying earnings of £77m in the first half of 2008, up from £30m for the same period in 2007.

The insurer, which also announced up to 500 redundancies, reported a rise in total revenues to £1,108m, from £1,160m, and a combined operating ratio of 99.1%.

Philippe Maso, chief executive of AXA Insurance, said the insurer’s revenues were stable but admitted that growth in commercial lines had been slower than expected. He attributed this to continuing soft rates, adding: “People talk about something happening in the market in 2009 – the sooner the better!” AXA Insurance’s total revenue for commercial lines was £570m, compared to £536m in personal lines.

Maso blamed two or three players for keeping rates down by pricing low, but said he expected that to change in the near future. He said: “In every market at every stage you will find people who have a different strategy. The bulk of the industry wants to go back to a healthy account and good profitability.”

Marsh revenue grows 8% but 900 more jobs to go

Marsh saw its revenue grow by 8% in the second quarter of 2008. The broker plans to cut a further 900 jobs. In the three months to 30 June, Marsh’s total revenue was $1.2bn (£626m), compared to $1.1bn at the same period last year.

Its six-month revenues were also up 8% to $2.4bn. Revenues at reinsurance broker Guy Carpenter for the same period were down to $477m from $509m. Dan Glaser, chairman and chief executive of Marsh, said: “I am pleased with the performance of Marsh for the second quarter. We have a long way to go but our results this quarter reflect strong progress on many fronts."

Marsh & McLennan, the parent company of broker Marsh and Guy Carpenter, reported a net loss of $145m due to a goodwill impairment charge of $540m in the first six months of the year, compared with net income of $445m last year.

In its second quarter results to June 30, 2008, consolidated revenue was $3bn, up 9% from the second quarter of 2007. Revenue growth was 4% on an underlying basis.

Fortis doubles half year profits

Fortis Insurance UK reported pre-tax profit of £43.3m in the first half of the year, more than double its profit in the same period last year. Gross written premiums fell marginally from £382.9m last year to £365.3m in the first six months of 2008, which reflected a strong stance on rates.

Barry Smith, chief executive of Fortis UK, said the company would build on its success by expanding its product portfolio and moving into new lines of business. He said: “We are very clear that we need to expand the width of products and an area we will focus on will be commercial lines.” Commercial lines currently represent around 10% of Fortis’ business.

The company said its strong results were driven by a focus on profitable underwriting and cost control. The 2007 performance was also severely impacted by last summer’s severe flooding. Fortis reported growth across its retail business, comprising RIAS and OutRight, with commission income rising 3.4% in the first half of the year to £43.3m.

Benfield pre-tax profits fall 5%

Benfield saw its pre-tax profits fall 5% for the six months to 30 June 2008. The reinsurance broker reported profit before tax of £87.7m, down 5% from £92.3m at the same period last year. Group revenue also fell to £233m, a decrease of 4% to £242.7m. The group trading margin increased to 43.6%, from 42% in the first half of last year.

The broker blamed the expected soft reinsurance market conditions for the loss in revenue. However, it said new business growth, particularly in Europe and global facultative solutions, increased revenue in its international division by over 6%. It added that within the marine, energy and power sector, revenue grew by a further 30%.

Heath Lambert trading profit rises to £9.2m

Trading profit at Heath Lambert increased by more than 8% to £9.2m in its half year results to 30 June 2008. The group’s national business also saw a year-on-year income increase of 3% and a 35% increase in trading profit. Income for retail

personal lines rose by 7% and the transportation division saw income increase by 23%. Specialty wholesale construction income increased by 15%, while financial risks and private medical rose 12% and 23% respectively.

The company praised its “consistently high renewal rates” and retaining key accounts as well as adding new business.

Heath Lambert group chief executive Adrian Colosso said: “Heath Lambert has continued to make steady and consistent progress and has improved the overall quality and performance of the group.”