Michael Faulkner comments on the market movers.

Shares in listed broking and financial service group Culver continued their dramatic decline this week, falling by more than 17% this week. Culver Holdings shares have been falling since July last year, losing 80% of their value.

Earlier this month the company reported pre-tax losses for 2007 of more than £600,000 and warned of further pain in 2008.

As Insurance Times went to press, shares in Culver Holdings were trading at 145p.

Legal expenses provider Abbey Protection enjoyed a share-price bounce as it unveiled better-than-expected results for 2007. The company, which listed at the end of last year, reported pre-tax profits up 9% to £7.3m and revenue up 11% to £27.3m.

The group’s chief executive Colin Davison highlighted the non-cyclicality of Abbey’s key markets and said its earnings would prove resilient in an economic downturn. Chairman Tony Shearer said the company was looking for acquisitions.

Abbey Protection shares rose 1p to 67p on publication of the results before settling at 66.75p. Analyst Numis raised its target price on the stock by 5p to 75p.

Lloyd’s insurer Omega gave an upbeat assessment of its 2008 performance, describing trading as strong. It said rates had softened less than expected and market conditions continued to offer attractive margins in its core areas.

Walter Fiederowicz, chairman of Omega Insurance Holdings, said at the group’s annual general meeting: “Rates and conditions in property reinsurance are holding firm in the US and in peak international areas such as the UK. We have already reported that we have cut back exposures over the last two years in weaker non-US areas.

Omega’s stock was trading at 152p, down 1% for the week, as Insurance Times went to press.

Meanwhile, in Australia, IAG’s share price plunged by more than 8% this week after the insurer’s board rejected QBE’s improved takeover proposal last week. There was speculation that QBE would return with a lower offer, given IAG’s falling share price. Others have speculated that a hostile takeover was on the cards.

IAG’s shares have fallen from A$4.23 (206p) last Tuesday, when QBE’s proposal was rejected, to less than A$4 (195p) as Insurance Times went to press.