May 8, 2018 / 7:19 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Underwriter Hiscox's premiums rise, London improves

(Adds detail on London market, background)

May 8 (Reuters) - Lloyd’s of London underwriter Hiscox saw insurance rates in London improve in the first quarter and its overall gross written premiums rise 24 percent, helped by strong demand for flood and other property insurance.

The company said gross written premiums in its London business had risen 8.7 percent in constant currency to $219.8 million.

“After a costly year for catastrophes in 2017, our London market and reinsurance businesses mobilised quickly to grasp the opportunity and grew strongly,” the company said.

“We continue to experience strong demand for our FloodPlus product for homeowners, as awareness of the flood peril spreads in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.”

Hiscox was hit by a $225 million bill for claims in 2017, a “historic year for natural catastrophes”, including a 36.2 million pound ($49.1 million) loss in its London Market segment, which has a focus on catastrophe-exposed risks.

Insurance industry premiums, pressured by tough competition, are now rising after the industry faced record bills from hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfire of over $135 billion last year.

The insurer, which underwrites a range of risks from oil refineries to kidnappings, said gross written premiums rose to $1.16 billion in the three months ended March 31, from $930 million a year earlier, helped by growth in its retail business. ($1 = 0.7373 pounds) (Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)

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