When companies post their 2006 results over the next couple of weeks, expectations will be extremely high.

As insurance stalwart, Hank Greenberg, rightly pointed out this week: "If you fail to make a profit [in 2006], then you need to get out of the business."

His remark at a lecture at Lloyd's may have been tinted with a touch of humour and greeted with laughter from his knowledgeable audience.

However, it does flag up the inescapable fact that pressure to perform is as strong as ever.

This is particularly apparent for those with a catastrophe-focused business, who, with the enviable advantage of fantastic rates and a benign hurricane season in 2006, should be producing results to match conditions.

But it seems that record results are not a given, just ask the senior management of Advent.

While, on the surface it appears to have performed well in 2006, posting pre-tax profits of £22.2m compared to losses of £74.8m in the previous year, for those whose job it is to delve a little deeper, the results fall slightly below what had been forecast.

Numis Securities say it had anticipated a little more from the property reinsurance and insurance syndicate.

To be precise, the expectation was 15% more, and in its opinion, "there may be some disappointment," that 2006 earnings are not stronger particularly given the favourable trading conditions for Advent's catastrophe-focused book of business.

It blamed the difference between what was expected and what was actually achieved on a deterioration of the group's 2005 hurricane losses during Q4 combined with a £1.5m write-off of reinsurance costs after a change in the timing of the group's renewal programme.

Is Advent's predicament exceptional and will others produce record-breaking results in 2006?

"It is the million dollar question," says one insurance expert.

"If a company either increases its 2005 storm losses, or it can't quite generate the returns that are expected then we will see some weakness

"On the other hand we will also see some fantastic results."

Whatever side of the fence you fall, it is fair to assume that Advent will not be the last to fall short of the mark.

As a result, the focus will now be firmly on the likes of Amlin and Hiscox, who by taking more risk in starting up Bermuda operations to predominantly write property catastrophe business, should have taken real advantage of a favourable year. IT