Commercial premiums for first quarter in line with last year.

RSA’s UK commercial lines premiums remained flat in the first quarter of 2008 at £396m, in line with last year, while its personal lines premiums rose 8% to £265m.

The insurer said the failure to grow in commercial lines reflected its commitment to maintaining underwriting discipline, and its withdrawal from unprofitable areas of the market.

Meanwhile, it credited growth in its affinity partnerships and direct arm More Th>n for its success in personal lines, which helped push UK net written premiums up 3% to £661m.

RSA also announced a new affinity partnership with Ford in a deal that will see the insurer become the UK provider of branded car insurance for Ford, Mazda, Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover.

Bridget McIntyre, UK chief executive of RSA, said: “Our affinity business is vibrant, and we believe in working with partners who come to us because we have a skill. If it’s on a marginal cost basis, we’re not very interested. But if we can see that by working with a partner we can together develop and generate good business, then we’re really happy to work with partners like that. And Ford came to us for that reason.”

In UK personal lines, RSA’s motor rates increased by 5% and household rates increased by 4%.

On the commercial side motor rates rose 8%, while property increased to 3%. But liability remained static.

RSA’s group net written premiums increased 15% (8% at constant exchange rates) to £1.7bn, while international net written premiums were up 24% to £893m. Emerging markets net written premiums jumped 23% to £163m.

As reported in the 2007 full-year results, RSA expects to deliver a combined operating ratio for 2008 of around 95%.

Andy Haste, group chief executive officer of RSA, said: “It has been a good start to 2008. Our three month premiums demonstrate the benefit of our strong and diversified portfolio. We continue to exercise tight operational and financial management, including taking the right action on rate and expenses, to deliver sustainable profitable performance.”