Wednesday, March 24, 2010

With Few Cats To Pay For, Lloyd’s Sees Record Results For 2009

Lloyd’s of London announced that its 2009 pre-tax profits more than doubled, to £3.86billion ($6.2 billion) compared to £1.89 billion in 2008 ($2.82 billion at today’s rate).

In an interview Luke Savage, director, finance, risk management and operations at Lloyd’s, cited a benign year for disasters and catastrophes as a big factor in the results.

The chairman of Lloyd's, Lord Peter Levene, said in a statement, “The hard work and very careful attention to risk in the Lloyd’s market have resulted in a pre-tax profit of $6.2 billion, the highest that we have ever recorded.”

The result was achieved, he noted, “despite the economic turbulence that characterized most of 2009, although we were certainly helped by a low level of catastrophe-related losses, helped by a benign Atlantic hurricane season. The market can be proud of what it has achieved in 2009.”

Lord Levene also commented that the results illustrate that “not all parts of the financial services sector are the same and, at Lloyd’s, our strength and resilience means that we can face the future with confidence.”

Mr. Savage mentioned that Lloyd’s provides a lot of cover to the hurricane-affected areas of the United States.

He said last year’s particularly benign environment “helped to keep the contribution to our combined ratio down to just 2 percent for major losses.” For context, he noted, “the average catastrophes over the past eight-to-nine years have added about 10 points to the combined ratio.”

The major losses for 2009, he said, were the Air France disaster over the Atlantic Ocean, Windstorm Klaus in Europe and several bushfires in Australia. Those losses averaged £60-to-£70 million each ($89.3-to-$104.2 million), “and those were the biggest things we saw last year,” Mr. Savage said.

This was a marked contrast to the prior year, he said, when Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in the United States “cost us significantly more than that.” Hurricane Ike came in at £1.2 billion ($1.78) and Gustav at £200 million ($297.8 million), he said.

So far, he observed, 2010 has had a more volatile start with earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, but those most likely will not see losses near those from Hurricane Ike. He added that Lloyd’s focus for these disasters is not on costs, but in seeing that policyholders are paid as soon as possible.

Mr. Savage said another reason 2009 did so well was because “globally we saw rebounding stock markets.” He said, “Even if we have a similarly low level of catastrophes, we’re not going to see the same level of investment income in 2010.”

What will make it even more difficult in 2010 is pressure on rates, “particularly in things like property, where one year without any windstorms and everyone expects their premiums to start coming down,” he said, adding that all these factors combined make 2010 look “pretty gloomy in comparison.”

Lloyd's Chief Executive Richard Ward said the 2009 results are built on a “resolute focus on underwriting discipline coupled with a strong balance sheet and a conservative investment strategy.”

This has meant, he said, that during testing times for the financial services industry “we continued to be a stable partner for businesses seeking to manage their risks.”

Mr. Ward cautioned, however, that “while the results are a testament to our strength, we cannot afford to be complacent and in 2010 we must work to continue to develop the attractiveness of the market, whilst focusing on profitable underwriting and sound risk management.”

Other Lloyd’s financial highlights:

• Combined ratio of 86.1 (2008: 91.3), which compares favorably with an estimated average of 100 for U.S. property and casualty insurers; 94 for U.S. reinsurers; 99 for European insurers and reinsurers; and 84 for Bermudian insurers and reinsurers.

• Central assets increased to £2.08 billion ($3.35 billion), (2008: £2.07 billion).

• Investment return of £1.76 billion ($2.84 billion), (2008: £957 million).

• Profit before tax excluding currency movements on non-monetary items of £4.24 billion ($6.83 billion), (2008: £1.52 billion).

• Surplus on prior years’ reserves of £934 million ($1.5 billion), (2008: £1.26 billion).

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