Insurance market Lloyd’s of London swings to loss after $3 billion in coronavirus claims

The interior of Lloyd’s of London, the centuries-old insurance market, is pictured in central London on April 27, 2016.

Leon Neal | AFP | Getty Images

Insurance marketplace Lloyd’s of London posted a first-half pre-tax loss of £400 million ($520.08 million) on Thursday, on the back of £2.4 billion in coronavirus-related payouts so far this year.

The loss compares with a profit of £2.3 million for the same period last year.

Combined ratio, a key measure of underwriting profitability, hit 110.4% for the first six months the this year, compared to 98.8% for the first half of 2019. Anything below 100% represents profitability. Payments for Covid-19 related claims accounted for 18.7% of this ratio, in what CEO John Neal called an “exceptionally challenging period” for the market.

Insurers around the world have been hammered by the pandemic, with Lloyd’s estimating earlier this year that non-life insurers would face a global bill of more than $100 billion in payouts for disruption to travel, business, events, trade and more.

The company’s Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown told CNBC on Thursday that Lloyd’s’, whose results are an aggregate of more than 90 syndicate members, expects to pay around £5 billion in coronavirus-related claims over the course of the year.

British regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has brought a test case to the High Court to seek legal clarity over insurers’ liability for business interruption claims in the context of Covid-19, following widespread criticism from businesses unable to claim back losses caused by the pandemic.

“Where pandemic and notifiable diseases are specifically covered in insurance policies, then they will pay, and we’ve been paying claims on those, but they are typically bought as an extension to a standard policy that requires physical damage to a premises before a claim can be made,” Carnegie-Brown told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“It is that second category that is proving complex around the issue of whether Covid-19 is creating physical damage in the workplace, and that is the issue that is being tested in the High Court and we are very supportive of getting this to an early decision.”

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