RSA Insurance Group Plc declined in London trading after reporting lower premiums in the first nine months of this year as prices fell and it withdrew from less profitable businesses.
RSA, which was hit by an accounting scandal in Ireland in 2013, said premiums dropped 16 percent to 5.68 billion pounds ($9.1 billion) this year through September, a statement showed today. The stock fell as much as 4 percent, heading for its biggest one-day decline since March.
“Insurance markets are reasonably soft,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hester said on a conference call with reporters. “Most people are reporting declines in top line income and are having to work hard. We are maybe slightly further down, which reflects the action taken in our portfolio.”
Hester, who succeeded Simon Lee in February, has been cutting costs and selling assets to boost profitability and shore up the company’s balance sheet. After scrapping the dividend in February, he reiterated that shareholders payouts would be restarted at a “modest level” next year.
The shares were down 3.4 percent to 467.5 pence at 1:20 p.m. in London, wiping off about 168 million pounds of market value and paring its advance this year to 15 percent.
The former CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc said the company’s investment income has been eroded by falling bond yields, which will also affect future periods.
Even so, Hester said the strategy to “reset” the insurer continues to run ahead of schedule after raising 740 million pounds from assets sales across Europe and Asia.
Further disposals are expected over the next 12 months, probably in emerging markets excluding Latin America, Hester said. Outside Europe, the insurer owns businesses in the Middle East and India.
“We have also made good progress this year in our balance sheet clean-up work, though we still anticipate some further actions during the remainder of 2014 in addition to ongoing cost-reduction charges,” Hester, 53, said.
The insurer’s net asset value increased 12 percent to 2.9 billion pounds from June, according to the statement.
A year ago, the London-based firm issued its first of three profit warnings, saying it would miss its earnings target in the wake of European windstorms. One week later, the insurer suspended three executives in Ireland amid an investigation into its claims and finance operations.