with Michael Faulkner
Insurance stocks performed badly this week, with most falling in value. Even insurers reporting some positive news to the City did not enjoy a consequent bump in their share price.
That said the stock market as a whole was pretty sluggish – the FTSE 100 climbed only 0.05% during the past seven days.
Hiscox reported a good start to the year, with relatively little involvement in the major losses that have hit its peers during the period and pushed industry-wide losses to $3.8bn (£2bn).
The insurer’s UK and European units experienced strong growth with increases in gross written premiums of 13% and 29% respectively. Hiscox Global Markets and Hiscox International reduced premium income as the insurer pulled back from large globally traded business, where rates continued to decline. Overall, premium income was down by 10% to £321.3m.
Analyst Numis said that Hiscox demonstrated a balanced underwriting business that was well-placed compared to its peers. Hiscox shares were down 0.29% over the week to 257.50p.
RSA shares fell 2.28% during the week to 137.10p, despite good progress in growing the business while maintaining underwriting discipline, according to Numis. As expected it achieved growth in emerging markets and Canada, but also in its more mature businesses in the UK and Scandinavia.
Meanwhile, Leo Insurance Services saw its stock plunge over 36% after reporting a consolidated loss of £30,700 for the year ended 31 January 2008.
Leo's only investment is a 50% share in property broker Grafton Insurance Services. During the year, Grafton lost a long term contract, leaving it with only one principal customer. Shares in Leo were trading at 3p as Insurance Times went to press.
Construction insurer Gable moved into profit in its second year of trading. It reported pre-tax profit of £0.51m for the year ended 31 December 2007 with gross written premiums of £6m.
The company said that trading conditions in the UK were challenging but it had extended its broker base considerably and was looking to broaden this further over 2008. It had commenced writing business in Spain and France and was looking at other territories, the company said.
Shares in Gable Holdings rose 5.56% to 7.12p.