Hastings Insurance Group increased its customer base by 20 percent in 2014, boosting profitability and setting the U.K. car insurer on track for a potential initial public offering this year.
Hastings, which generates 90 percent of its business from price-comparison websites, gained 290,000 customers last year to 1.71 million, a statement showed Thursday. Gross written premiums increased 19 percent and adjusted pretax profit rose 29 percent to 69.3 million pounds ($103 million).
“Everyone is very pleased with the way the company is progressing, but at some stage it’s appropriate for shareholders to be able to get a return on their investments,” Chief Executive Officer Gary Hoffman, 54, said in a telephone interview. “There are different ways of doing that and an IPO is an obvious way.”
Hastings’s results sit in contrast with competitors, which have been writing less business in the U.K. amid falling insurance rates. The secret is not having “international distractions” and employing an “agile” digital business model to capitalize on the popularity of price-comparison websites, Hoffman said.
Shareholders including Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s private- equity unit, which bought a 50 percent stake for about 150 million pounds at the start of 2014, are confident with the company’s pricing and reserving policy, Hoffman said. The CEO also said the insurer doesn’t need to raise more capital after selling bonds in 2013.
“Our focus is to continue to produce good results and in doing this we give our shareholders options,” the CEO said. “We are examining and assessing all options to us that includes a potential IPO, but we are are in no rush and no deadline or definitive timetable has been set.”