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Record catastrophe claims push Lloyds in heavy loss
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) March 28, 2012

Lloyd's of London insurance market on Wednesday posted its second-largest annual loss owing to record claims for catastrophes including Japan's earthquake disaster and floods in Thailand.

The company suffered a pre-tax loss of 516 million ($822 million, 615 million euros) in 2011 on soaring claims, Lloyd's said in a results statement. That compared with a profit before tax of 2.195 billion in 2010.

"Lloyd's incurred total net claims of 12.9 billion during 2011, including 4.6 billion of catastrophe claims, making it the largest catastrophe claims year on record for the 324-year-old insurance market," the group said.

"This follows a series of major catastrophes including flooding in Australia in January, the second earthquake in New Zealand in February, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March and the floods in Thailand beginning in July."

Total catastrophe claims for the entire insurance industry totalled $107 billion last year, according to Lloyd's.

"Make no mistake, 2011 was a difficult year for the insurance industry," Lloyd's chief executive Richard Ward said in the earnings release.

"Given the scale of the claims, a loss is unsurprising but it reflects what we're here to do -- help communities and businesses rebuild after disaster.

"It is also reassuring that, despite this loss, our financial strength has been maintained."

Lloyd's worst pre-tax loss was 3.1 billion in 2001 following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington that year.

Its chairman John Nelson meanwhile said on Wednesday that 2012 would be "challenging" for the insurance sector due to the weak state of the global economy.

"The Lloyd's market has emerged from its largest catastrophe year ever in a strong position," Nelson said in the statement.

"Our strong capital position is unchanged and we were able to make a profit in the second half of the year despite the floods in Thailand and continuing low investment returns.

"2012 remains challenging for insurers with tough economic conditions globally. It is vital that the market continues to take a disciplined approach to underwriting."

The insurance sector took a hit from Lloyd's gloomy results.

Prudential and Royal Sun Alliance (RSA) saw their share prices tumble by 3.20 percent and 7.34 percent respectively in late London deals.

"An expensive year for Lloyd's of London has hurt insurance shares, with Prudential and RSA suffering the heaviest falls," noted sales trader Yusuf Heusen at financial spread-betting firm IG Index.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index, on which both companies are listed, was down 0.39 percent at 5,846.54 points. Lloyd's is not a publicly traded company.

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Thailand offers investor tax incentive after floods
Bangkok (AFP) March 28, 2012 - Thailand Wednesday approved a new tax incentive to stimulate investment in the country's industrial heartland which was badly hit by last year's floods, Industry Minister Pongsavas Savasti said.

The Board of Investment agreed to waive corporate income tax for eight years at 150 percent of investment value for all new and extended investment in Pathumthani and Ayutthaya provinces, which were badly affected by the disaster.

"We want to see Pathumthani and Ayutthaya still be the centre of investment," said Pongsavas.

The months-long floods took a heavy toll on the industrial areas north of Bangkok, with many factories forced to close temporarily, including Honda's Ayutthaya plant.

The tax incentive comes amid a government charm offensive to reassure investors that the kingdom remains a good place to do business.

A recent survey showed almost one in 10 Japanese manufacturers with operations in Thailand plan to relocate out of the kingdom but Pongsavas said he was not worried about investors leaving.

"I don't have any worry at all or maybe only less than one percent that foreign investors will move their investment base to other countries because of the flood. Those who moved (from flood-hit areas), they are still in Thailand," said Pongsavas.

Tariffs would also be waived on imports of new machinery or equipment under 10 years old for new or expanded projects or to replace flood-damaged machines.

The board also gave the green light to support 11 new projects worth 83.8 billion baht ($2.7 billion), mostly electricity production projects in Ayutthaya and Pathumthani.

Japan remains the top investor to apply for investment support from the Board of Investment during the first two months of 2012, followed by investors from the United States.


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Money-mad Singapore aims to become non-profit hub
Singapore (AFP) March 25, 2012
Singapore has long courted international banks and companies in its drive to become a financial hub. But it is also wooing a very different sector: non-profit groups including campaign charities. Singapore has attracted more than 130 "international non-profit organisations" such as the charities Mercy Relief and World Vision International, and the International Air Transport Association, an ... read more

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