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Beazley flags premium rate gains after profit drops 43%

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Specialty insurer Beazley says pre-tax profit fell 43% last year to $US168 million ($215 million) after the industry experienced one of its most costly periods for natural disasters.

The UK-based company has paid out more than $US110 million ($140 million) in claims following a spate of catastrophes including US hurricanes, Mexican earthquakes and wildfires in California.

Gross written premium last year grew to $US2.3 billion ($2.9 billion) from $US2.2 billion ($2.8 billion) in 2016, while the combined operating ratio deteriorated to 99% from 89%.

“Premiums grew 7% [last year] – a strong performance given market conditions,” CEO Andrew Horton said. “Looking ahead, we see potential for double-digit growth [this year].

Beazley says catastrophes late last year spurred material price rises in directly affected classes, while reinsurance renewal prices climbed by 3% for non-US business and 8% for US business last month.

“Profitable growth has proved steadily harder for insurers to achieve in recent years as premium rates for short-tail catastrophe-exposed business have declined,” Chairman Dennis Holt said.

“But [last year’s] catastrophe events have arrested these declines and – in the lines of business most directly affected – reversed them. Beazley is accordingly well placed for stronger growth.”

Last year the company sold its Australian accident and health portfolio.