UPDATE 2-Growth in Europe, Asia drives insurer Catlin's premiums
* Q1 gross premiums written rise 9 pct to $2.01 bln
* Q1 gross premiums written in international markets rise 19 pct (Adds analyst quote; updates share movement)
By Esha Vaish
May 14 (Reuters) - Catlin Group Ltd, operator of the biggest syndicate in the Lloyd's of London insurance market, said it wrote 9 percent more premiums in the first quarter of the year, driven largely by demand for reinsurance sold by Catlin Re Switzerland.
The Bermuda-based company, which insures against everything from flooding to kidnapping, said gross premiums written rose to $2.01 billion from $1.84 billion a year earlier.
The company's international business, which comprises Asia Pacific, Europe and Canada, recorded a 19 percent jump in gross premiums written to $594 million.
The business accounted for about 30 percent of the company's gross premiums written in the quarter ended March 31, up from 27 percent a year earlier.
Insurers have been able to grow premiums in the Asia-Pacific region, a relatively untapped market, while cut-throat pricing has made growth difficult in the United States and the UK.
Catlin said there were no catastrophe losses during the quarter but it incurred a large single-risk loss related to the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
Authorities are yet to trace the aircraft, which disappeared more than two months ago after straying miles off its designated route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Peel Hunt analyst Mark Williamson estimated claims related to the flight to be between $250 million and $350 million.
"It's not outside of (Catlin's) normal sort of pattern of loss expectations ... it's not one of those losses that's going to change forecasts at the moment," said Williamson.
Catlin's communications head, James Burcke, declined to comment on the size of the loss related to the missing flight.
Burcke said the company was comfortable with its previous forecast of a growth of 5-10 percent in gross premiums written, noting that its geographical spread and the range of risks it covers would make up for a slump in catastrophe rates.
"With a benign claims environment in (the first quarter), profitability is likely to be solid as the (company) builds up earnings buffers ahead of the hurricane season," JP Morgan Cazenove analyst Andreas van Embden said in a note.
An absence of major hurricanes last year, increased pricing pressure and a rise in demand for "catastrophe bonds" have kept a check on catastrophe reinsurance rates.
Catastrophe bonds allow insurers to share risks and raise money collectively in case of a major disaster.
Catlin's shares were marginally up at 522.5 pence at 1146 GMT on Wednesday on the London Stock Exchange.
The stock has fallen about 10 percent this year to Tuesday's close, largely underperforming the FTSE All Share Nonlife Insurance Index, which gained over 3 percent during the same period. (Reporting by Esha Vaish and Richa Naidu in Bangalore; Editing by Sunil Nair and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)
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