February 29, 2012 / 9:36 AM / in 6 years

Insurer Brit takes big catastrophe hit

LONDON, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Lloyd’s of London insurer Brit said its 2011 profit fell by a third as 142 million pounds ($225 million) in natural disaster claims outweighed steep cost cuts pushed through by the group’s new private equity owners.

Netherlands-based Brit, acquired in late 2010 by buyout firms Apollo and CVC, had a pretax profit for the year of 75.8 million pounds, down from 116.4 million pounds the previous year, it said on Wednesday.

The decline was driven by a surge in catastrophe claims, led by a 41.6 million pound loss related to the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand. That more than offset a cost-cutting programme which reduced management expenses by 34.5 million pounds, or 20 percent.

“Brit delivered a solid result in 2011 against a weak market,” said Chief Executive Mark Cloutier, who took over from long-standing Brit CEO Dane Douetil in October.

Insurers absorbed a total of $108 billion pounds in catastrophe losses in 2011, making it the industry’s second-costliest natural disaster year on record after 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, according to reinsurer Swiss Re.

Most of Brit’s peers in the Lloyd’s of London market have also reported sharply lower profits, reflecting their heavy exposure to catastrophe risk.

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