A surge in Coronavirus (COVID-19) insurance payments sent Lloyds of London tumbling into the red in 2020.

The 330-year market that is home to 100 insurance syndicates posted a loss of £900mln (2019:£2.5bn profit) after claims related to COVID-19 soared to more than £6.2bn, an amount that it said was a record for a single event.

Reinsurance would reduce the market’s exposure by £2.6bn, Lloyds said, but still described the impact of the virus as “unprecedented” and said it would have made a profit of £800mln otherwise even after a bad year for natural disasters and Brexit.

John Neal, chief executive, said COVID-19 has been a global health crisis ‘of a scale never seen before”.

“The year was also marked by a high frequency of natural catastrophe claims and the UK’s formal exit from the EU, driving further losses and uncertainty,” he added.

Gross premiums received fell by 1.2% to £35.5bn, though rates improved over the year by 10.8% and Lloyds said the rising trend had continued into the current year.

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