Danny Walkinshaw reports on the news on the web

The meltdown in the global economy remained top of the agenda on news websites this week.

Insurancetimes.co.uk and the rest of the international media were dominated by stories on the turmoil in stock markets and the pressure being felt by a number of companies, including banks and insurers, whose futures hang in the balance.

The parent company of Fortis UK had to be rescued by three European governments. Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands invested a total of €11.2bn (£8.8bn) in the bank’s business. The news, reported on Insurancetimes.co.uk, was the most popular story of the week.

Barry Smith, chief executive of Fortis UK, insisted it was business as usual at the insurer. In last week’s issue of Insurance Times, he said: “There is no change, it is business as usual. We have had capital injected from Belgium and these actions have been taken to ensure strength and stability.”

He added: “We are a separately domiciled and regulated entity with a strong business.”

On the same day Fortis was saved, the UK government was forced to step in and rescue former building society Bradford & Bingley. BBC Online reported a statement by Gordon Brown that the bail-out showed the government would “do whatever it takes to ensure the stability of the UK financial system”.

The IIB, the brokers’ trade body, warned that brokers could face bills of thousands of pounds each as a consequence of

failing banks, if the financial services compensation scheme had to pay out above a certain threshold.

Last week’s Most Read list was an all-AIG affair and the beleaguered insurer was the talk of the market again this week. The latest development came as the insurer announced it could sell off 15 businesses as it attempts to repay its $85bn loan from the US government.

This story became the second most read on Insurancetimes.co.uk and continued to receive major coverage in the national press.

According to FT.com: “People close to the situation warned that no final decisions on the asset sales had been made and stressed that AIG wanted to retain a large degree of flexibility on asset sales because of the difficult market conditions.”

AIG has already sold its 50% stake in London City airport.

Most Read on www.insurancetimers.co.uk

The most read stories this week on Insurancetimes.co.uk:

1. Benelux governments rescue Fortis
Business as usual for UK insurance arm.

2. AIG to sell off 15 businesses
Troubled insurer to dispose of reinsurance arm.

3. 170 redundancies as Allianz restructures
Retail boss Dye makes first changes since appointment to role.

4. Lloyds hit by soft market and rise in attritional claims
Interim pre-tax profit drops to 949m pounds.

5. FBI to investigate AIG
Insurer to face scrutiny along with Lehman Brothers.