Hiscox looks ahead to New Year rate rise

LLOYD’S insurer Hiscox said steady losses from catastrophes and a choosy approach to underwriting this year had put it “in good shape” yesterday, but its investment portfolio lost value since June as markets plunged.

Hiscox, which insures specialist commercial risks and reinsurance, said its revenue from premiums fell by three per cent to £1.2bn in the nine months to the end of September.

The only areas to grow were its UK retail business, which wrote premiums of £280m this year compared to £249.1m in the nine months to September 2010, and a small increase in its European business.

Chief executive Bronek Masojada said Hiscox was waiting for insurance rates to go up when policies renewed in January.

“The cumulative effect of international catastrophes is pushing reinsurance rates upwards. As nearly a third of our income comes from reinsurance, we are ready to benefit at the January renewal season.”

It also surprised analysts by saying its investment portfolio had lost value so far this year, making 0.5 per cent return against inflation of close to five per cent.

Hiscox has kept £210m reserved against losses from catastrophes such as the New Zealand earthquakes so far this year, but reassured investors that the only new loss to be added to it was a net claim of less than £10m from Hurricane Irene, which swept the US east coast in August.