Hiscox warns of worst year ever for insurers

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The Independent Online

An unprecedented series of natural disasters, such as the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power crisis in Japan, have combined with the Arab Spring to push Hiscox into the red.

Proclaiming 2011 as "the costliest year ever" for the insurance industry, the Lloyd's of London insurer repor- ted an £85.6m interim pre-tax loss yesterday, compared with a profit of £97.2m a year ago. Revenue for the six months to June 30 fell by 10 per cent to £667.5m.

Robert Hiscox, the company's chairman, said an "unprecedented variety of losses", which also included the worst tornadoes on record in the US, floods in Australia and an earthquake in New Zealand, meant 2011 was already the most expensive year on record for insurers.

"It has been an exceptionally challenging first half year, but we are in good shape to take advantage of increased rates in some catastrophe areas and to accelerate the momentum of our retail businesses," Mr Hiscox said.

Hiscox International, the unit covering the US, Bermuda and Guernsey, made the group's biggest loss, of £82.2m.

Hiscox sought to reassure investors by raising its interim dividend by 0.1p to 5.1p. But the shares fell 13.5p, or 3.3 per cent, to 394.0p.