Insurer Beazley expressed confidence on outlook after revealing a 25 percent jump in full year pretax profits on the back of a strong underwriting performance and a quiet year for catastrophe related loss claims.
Pretax profits for its year to December 2013 jumped to $313.3m, up from $251.2m a year earlier. Net premiums written by the company - an expert in marine, casualty and property insurance - grew 9% to $1.68bn. Net insurance claims meanwhile fell 8% to $719m.
The full year payout has been increased by 6% to 8.8p. The strong performance and confident outlook is further underlined by the special dividend being hiked by 92% to 16.1p from 8.4p for its 2012 year.
Beazley's Chief Executive Andrew Horton hailed the company's "exceptional" underwriting performance in 2013, reflected in the company recording its lowest combined ratio since going public in 2002.
The combined ratio is a measure of profitability used by an insurance company to indicate how well it is performing in its daily operations. A ratio below 100% indicates that the company is making underwriting profit while a ratio above 100% means that it is paying out more money in claims that it is receiving from premiums.
For 2013, Beazley's combined ratio came in at 84% - down from 91% in 2012,
Horton added: ""Despite intensifying competition in some areas, we continue to identify attractive growth opportunities across the breadth of our well diversified portfolio. The strength of our underwriting performance gives us the financial flexibility to take advantage of these opportunities while still enhancing returns to shareholders through a special dividend and an increased regular dividend."
The healthy results and confident outlook helped Beazley shares
put on 16.3p or 6% in mid-morning trade to 269.72p, valuing the company at £1.35bn.
Britain's biggest pub group Enterprise Inns said trading in the first 18 weeks of the financial year has been encouraging and is in line with company expectations.
Like-for-like (LFL) net income across the whole estate for the year to date is up 1.0% on the prior year, as momentum continued from the final quarter of the prior financial year.
"We are focused on continuing to implement actions that will sustain this trading performance and, despite market conditions remaining volatile and challenging, we are confident that by enhancing our pub estate and continuing to support our publicans we are providing the appropriate foundations for delivering sustainable net income growth," the pub landlord said in a company statement.
It added: "The quality of our estate is being improved through the disposal of unsustainable pubs and reinvesting the disposal proceeds in the retained business."
Enterprise Inns is starting to recover from the challenges of the credit crisis and the smoking ban, which produced a slump in sales and prompted the sale of thousands of pubs.
The group has a new £150m loan facility, started in December 2013 and is available through to June 2016. Bank borrowings net of cash are now at £104m down from £301m a year ago.
As already confirmed in November last year, founder and Chief Executive Ted Tuppen will retire in February and will be succeeded by currently Chief Operating Officer Simon Townsend.