European expansion pays dividends for CU

Improved weather in the United States and a big contribution from its French acquisition produced a strong performance from the Commercial Union, the latest in a flurry of composite insurers to publish figures.

Pre-tax profit for the three months to the end of March rose 43 per cent compared with the first quarter last year to reach pounds 102m on premium income of pounds 2.3bn, up from pounds 1.6bn this time last year.

The company said the results reflected the success of its strategy of expanding its life assurance business in Europe. Groupe Victoire, the French acquisition made last October, contributed pounds 16m to profits. The Dutch life operation made a 24 per cent increase in profit to pounds 24m.

Claims for weather damage in the United States were lower this year, adding pounds 14m to profit.

Paul Found, group financial controller, said: "We have had a good start to the current year." The price of premiums had fallen since the start of the year, but this trend was showing signs of stabilising.

Paul Hodges, an analyst with James Capel, said: "This is a very creditable result consistent with those of other insurers."