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Financials

UPDATE 1-Alberta fire loss "manageable" for insurer Hiscox-CEO

(Releads, adds CEO and analyst comment, share price)

LONDON, May 10 (Reuters) - Wildfires in Canada will be a manageable loss for Lloyd’s of London underwriter Hiscox , it said on Tuesday, as it reported a 10 percent rise in gross written premiums in the first quarter.

The government in Canada’s Alberta province said 2,400 structures burned in the blaze in the oil sands boomtown of Fort McMurray, with analysts describing it as the biggest insured disaster in Canada’s history.

“We have some exposure to homes in western Canada, we think it will be manageable,” Chief Executive Bronek Masojada told Reuters. Masojada said it was hard to estimate losses so far as the fire is still burning.

Hiscox, which underwrites a range of risks from oil refineries to kidnappings, said gross written premiums rose to 641 million pounds ($923.23 million) in the quarter ended March 31, with strong performance across all business sectors.

Insurers and reinsurers have seen pressure on rates in recent years due to increasing competition in the sector.

Rate pressure was most severe in aviation, marine and energy, terrorism and U.S. large property lines, Hiscox said in a statement.

In reinsurance, the firm said there were “single digit” rate reductions.

“Pressure on rates, especially in property reinsurance lines, has continued but is slowing down,” it said.

Hiscox said it had low exposure to Storm Katie, which hit Britain in March, to earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador and to attacks in Brussels in March.

Hiscox shares were up 1.6 percent to 945 pence per share at 0705 GMT, compared with a 0.6 percent rise in the FTSE 250 index

Eamonn Flanagan, analyst at Shore Capital, called the performance numbers upbeat, reaffirming his buy rating on the stock.

$1 = 0.6943 pounds Additional reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Susan Thomas

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