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Feb. 7, 2019, 2:49 a.m. EST

Beazley profit falls on catastrophe losses

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By Adam Clark

Beazley PLC (BEZ.LN) said Thursday that its 2018 profit fell sharply as a result of underwriting losses and lower investment returns, but that it expects a stronger 2019 on increasing premium prices and interest rates.

The specialist insurer's pretax profit fell 55% to $76.4 million. Beazley said it paid out $110 million over natural catastrophes in 2018 and investment income dived.

Beazley's combined ratio, its proportion of revenue eaten up by costs, came to 98% in 2018. Net written premiums rose 14% to $2.25 billion, which Beazley said was partly driven by strong U.S. growth.

"We hope to build on last year's price increases during 2019. In particular, numerous competitors have curtailed their property underwriting following heavy losses, and this withdrawal of capacity should make recent price rises more sustainable," Chief Executive Andrew Horton said.

Beazley said it will pay a second interim dividend of 7.8 pence a share. This brings the insurer's full-year dividend to 11.7 pence a share, up from 11.1 pence the prior year.

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