Hurricane Andrew keeps GA in the red

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GENERAL Accident, the Perth- based insurer, lost pounds 29.3m last year, its return to profitability foiled by its pounds 65m share of losses from Hurricane Andrew, cause of the world's biggest insurance loss.

The result was still a pounds 142.3m improvement on its pre-tax loss of pounds 171.6m in 1991. After three years of uncovered dividends - unchanged again at 26.75p - the company is expected to return to profits of close to pounds 150m this year.

Despite higher premium rates, General Accident remains cautious about growth in the UK and will not seek it in the US. The company raised another pounds 110m yesterday through a preference share issue, partly to help it take advantage of any opportunities to write profitable new business.

Nelson Robertson, chief general manager, said the insurer saw no reason for a rights issue. He was 'perfectly happy' with a solvency margin of about 46 per cent, strengthened by nearly 3 points by the preference share issue.

Total underwriting losses on the group's general insurance business fell from pounds 569.1m to pounds 510.1m. The biggest improvement came in the UK, where losses were nearly halved to pounds 175.2m, helped by higher premiums and reduced subsidence claims.

The US, which accounted for 34 per cent of total general insurance premiums of pounds 3.8bn, suffered a pounds 48m hit from Hurricane Andrew, leading to an increased underwriting loss of pounds 210.5m ( pounds 120.2m). Andrew cost GA another pounds 17m through its London market operation, whose losses worsened from pounds 34.9m to pounds 48m.

GA's life insurance business increased its profits from pounds 27m to pounds 34.8m, but estate agency losses were pounds 1m higher at pounds 18.8m.