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Hiscox cashes in on early rate rises

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Hiscox’s gross written premium jumped 24.3% to $US1.16 billion ($1.56 billion) in the first quarter as the specialty insurer took advantage of a hardening market.

“After a costly year for catastrophes… our London market and reinsurance businesses mobilised quickly to grasp the opportunity and grew strongly,” CEO Bronek Masojada said.

“Sadly, discipline and good sense is receding in the market, so for the rest of the year growth in big-ticket business will be more measured.”

Bermuda-based Hiscox says reinsurance rates at the April 1 renewals were generally flat after positive momentum for the January 1 renewals.

“As we look ahead to mid-year renewals in June and July, we see little prospect of rate improvement because an abundance of capacity from traditional and alternative sources remains a feature of the market,” the company says.

London market rates improved most in catastrophe-exposed business in the first quarter, particularly in loss-affected lines.

Hiscox says rates in major property increased 20% on aggregate, US household commercial property binders recorded increases of up to 10%, and some casualty lines under stress strengthened.

It describes the first-quarter investment environment as challenging.

“While we have seen a welcome rise in interest rates and we are beginning to see a corresponding increase in investment income, this is accompanied by the short-term adverse effect of mark-to-market accounting on our fixed-income portfolio.”