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Hiscox sees slower growth after strong first quarter

Hiscox's gross written premiums rose by a fifth in the first quarter but the insurer warned of slower growth ahead as competitors pile into the market.

The FTSE 250 insurer wrote $1.16bn (£860m) of business in the three months to the end of March - up 20.3% at constant currency from a year earlier.

Hiscox, which runs a Lloyd's of London syndicate, took advantage of increased rates after a series of disasters in 2017 pushed up prices. Rates for major property, US household and commercial property had the biggest rate rises in the London market.

In February the company reported a 91% drop in annual profit as it paid out for hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes following what it called a historic year for catastrophes.

In its trading update, Hiscox said the rate increase in the first quarter, continuing a trend from late 2017, followed years of declines for big-ticket items. There is little prospect of further improvement because of an "abundance of capacity" from traditional rivals and new entrants, it said.

Bronek Masojada, Hiscox's chief executive, said: "After a costly year for catastrophes in 2017, our London market and reinsurance businesses mobilised quickly to grasp the opportunity and grew strongly. 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."

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Hiscox Limited (DI)