Lloyd's will meet over solvency crisis

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Lloyd's of London, the loss-hit insurance market, will hold a special council meeting tomorrow to discuss looming pressures over its solvency levels.

Lloyd's normally holds council meetings on the first Wednesday of the month, but council members were told about the extra meeting late last week. A meeting a fortnight ago was stormy, by some accounts, as Peter Middleton, chief executive, revealed the depth of the latest problems to face the market.

The market's authorities have decided that Lloyd's might fail its 1996 statutory solvency test, which a Lloyd's spokesman conceded would prevent the market from trading in 1996.

Measures to save the market include raising a cash levy on those names and corporate capital investors who are still underwriting at Lloyd's. Lloyd's also wants to ring-fence old business from new.

"The window of opportunity in which Lloyd's management can act has narrowed," said one market insider. Another said: "A levy is inevitable."

As well as raising a levy to support the market, Lloyd's authorities are trying to put together an offer to names to end the litigation dogging the market. It is trying at the same time to ring-fence old-year loss- making business from future business. The plan is to put all the business written before 1993 into a new large syndicate. But this would need Department of Trade and Industry approval.