- Insurance group Hiscox reported a fall in pre-tax profit as large catastrophe events including storms in the US, the Caribbean and Japan led to a surge in claims.

For the 12 months ended 31 September, pre-tax profit dropped to $53.1m from $135.6m, even as gross written premiums climbed 6.7% to $4.0bn on-year.

The fall in profit was blamed on large catastrophe events, with $165m reserved for Hurricane Dorian and Typhoons Faxai and Hagibis, and $25m of reduced fees and profit commissions.

While the Hiscox London Market was impacted by catastrophes and property claims, Hiscox Retail profits increased by 22% to $178.4m, with a combined ratio of 98.7%, in line with guidance of between 97-to-99% for 2019, the company said.

The combined ratio for Hiscox Retail was 98.7%, outside of the company's target range of between 90%-to-95%, it added.

The insurer generated 'strong' investment return of $223m, compared with $38.1m last year.

The full-year dividend was raised by 3.5% to 29.6 cents.

Looking ahead, Hiscox flagged a number of 'small claims' from event cancellations related to the coronavirus outbreak, while losses from claims concerning recent flooding in the UK were expected within budget.

'It is too early to estimate the impact of the Coronavirus. The main areas of potential exposure for Hiscox are event cancellation, travel and personal accident cover and we have received notifications of small claims to date. Pandemic is only covered in a very small part of the portfolio where we have very controlled net exposure,' the company said.

'Some Hiscox UK household customers have unfortunately suffered flooding from the recent storms and our claims teams are working hard to get them back to normal. To date we have had 112 claims of which over 50% are reinsured with Flood Re, the Government-backed flood insurance programme. Net losses are well within our expected catastrophe loss budget for the quarter,' it added.

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