The news that the world’s largest insurer, AIG, revised its sub-prime write-down from $1bn to almost $5bn stoked fears in the market that the global credit crisis had spilled over at last into the general insurance sector.
The company’s market cap slide of $14bn – hastened by auditor PricewaterhouseCooper’s diagnosis that the insurer had undervalued its exposure and the possibility that investors in the business could take legal action – proved ample fodder for the financial media, with the story hitting the virtual front pages of all the usual online suspects.
The news of AIG’s difficulties perhaps spared broker Marsh from drawing further fire from its critics, after parent company MMC posted disappointing fourth quarter results. Though the decline in Marsh’s performance was widely predicted, online commentators focused instead on the group’s annual top line growth of 8% to $11.4bn.
The stories are set to continue. As we move into results season, insurers and brokers alike will be put under the online spotlight. Zurich was first past the post on Thursday, announcing it had grown its global net income by over a fifth to $5.6bn.
Though its results were impressive, its loss ratio inflation of 2.5% from the floods and winter storms – and resultant combined operating ratio deterioration to 95.6% – could prove of great interest to observers, especially as other insurers may seize the opportunity to play down less spectacular underlying financial performance.
On a related note, the ABI’s reiteration of its flood plea to the government to take steps to enforce the will of the Environment Agency over planning applications, though far from new, was received well by the online press. The BBC, among others, afforded it pride of place on its website, with shadow local government minister Stuart Jackson wading into the debate.
Closer to home, Insurancetimes.co.uk’s coverage of the news that Lloyd’s insurer Omega had received takeover approaches from seven parties proved the second most popular story of the week. The news, which first broke on the web, prompted an alert from the Stock Exchange – and sent the company’s share price soaring.
Other popular online stories included beleaguered ESR’s announcement that it had gone into administration following a fraud scandal, Zurich’s appointment of a marine cargo team and Peter Cullum’s weekly update – this time Towergate’s acquisition of Woodgate & Partners and CCV’s purchase of part of Lockton.
The most read stories this week on Insurancetimes.co.uk:
1. Fraud-hit ESR goes into administration
Lloyd’s insurer appoints two administrators to sell off remainder of company
2. Omega confirms takeover interest
Parent of Syndicate 958 has received approaches
3. Cullum venture swoops for Lockton divisions
Lockton sells retail divisions after strategic review
4. Zurich nabs CNA team for marine cargo drive
Insurer aims to become top three player in market
5. Towergate strikes again
Woodgate & Partners is the consolidator’s latest acquisition
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Graeme Newman is business development director for CFC Underwriting
United Insurance Brokers
United Insurance Brokers (UIB) has appointed Philip Tuite-Dalton to the board of UIB Holdings. He will retain his role as chief operating office of UIB.
Sir Philip Mawer has rejoined the board of Ecclesiastical Insurance as a non-executive. He previously served from 1996-2002. From 2002-2007 he was Parliamentary Commissioner for standards.
Liberty International Underwriters has appointed Paul Kurgo as head of commercial UK and Ireland. Kurgo joins from QBE where he spent six years. Latterly he was general manager of QBE’s UK commercial division.
Teceris has promoted six key staff to associates. They are John Armstrong, Julian Carter, Sarah Baker, Rowena Byrne-Jones, John Halford and Luke Exford.
Beachcroft has appointed Ben Daniels as partner, Vanessa Taylor-Byrne as associate, and Simon Thomas as solicitor in the commercial and financial services litigation team. All join from Bevan Brittan.
Collegiate has promoted Richard Turnbull to its board. He was underwriting manager for the group for three years and previously worked for the Financial Ombudsman Service.
For more appointments and pictures see: www.insurancetimes.co.uk