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STRONG 2011 FOR INSURERS

Annual results season came around with many of the UK's general insurance companies reporting strong performances for 2011. Despite the continued struggles elsewhere in the financial services industry, insurers' underwriting results have broadly improved.

While its likely-to-be ex-parent group, Royal Bank of Scotland endured the wrath of public scrutiny, RBS Insurance reported an operating profit for 2011 of £454m, wiping away memories of its £295m loss from the previous year. Citing an absence of reserve strengthening and fewer claims from bad weather, the company will rebrand as Direct Line Insurance Group, and its chief executive Paul Geddes said that the "process of separation is proceeding to plan".

Elsewhere, there was good news for RSA, which made a UK operating profit of £310m in 2011, more than twice the figure achieved in 2010. The insurer put its performance down to a range of factors, not least the 17% increase in premiums it charged for personal motor insurance and 6% rises in household cover.

Allianz's performance demonstrated a little more stability with the insurer's combined ratio remaining largely unchanged from 2010-2011, improving by just 0.3% to 95.7% while profits rose 11% to £173m.

The previous week, Ageas - formerly Fortis UK - reported a profit before tax of £105m for 2011 compared with a £24.8m loss the year before, helped by a surge in revenue of around £800m in premiums which resulted from its affinity arrangement with Tesco Bank.