Insurer Hiscox posts loss, sets aside $232 mln for COVID-19 claims

Lloyd's of London insurer Hiscox swung to a first-half loss on Monday as it set aside $232 million for claims stemming from the coronavirus crisis, including cancellations of major events, travel and media and entertainment disruptions.

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Aug 3 (Reuters) - Lloyd's of London insurer Hiscox HSX.L swung to a first-half loss on Monday as it set aside $232 million for claims stemming from the coronavirus crisis, including cancellations of major events, travel and media and entertainment disruptions.

The midcap company, which underwrites a range of risks including fine art, classic cars, kidnap and ransom, reported a pre-tax loss of $138.9 million for the six months ended June 30, versus a pre-tax profit of $168 million a year earlier.

"Having been in the business of risk for 47 years, one might expect to become somewhat immune to surprises, but some events have the ability to shock and amaze. COVID-19 has proven to be thus," Chairman Robert Childs said in a statement.

Hiscox and some other insurers are among the defendants in a case over whether existing policies cover big business losses caused by the coronavirus.

Businesses have been struggling to get pandemic cover, as insurers wrangle over policy wordings.

Hiscox, part of the world's oldest insurance market, said it is actively assisting the Financial Conduct Authority to bring a prompt resolution to disputes over business interruption coverage in the UK.

Gross written premiums slipped 4.4% to $2.24 billion, while combined ratio - a key measure of profitability - inched up to 114.6% from 98.8%. A level below 100% indicates premiums earned exceeded claims.

(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

((Muvija.M@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780, outside U.S. +91 80 6749 3638; Reuters Messaging: muvija.m.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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