UPDATE 1-Catlin profit disappoints as Sandy loss widens
LONDON Feb 8 (Reuters) - Bermuda-based insurer Catlin said profit fell short of analysts' forecasts because of a bigger than expected claims bill from Superstorm Sandy and the Costa Concordia shipwreck.
Catlin, operator of the biggest syndicate at Lloyd's of London, made a pretax profit of $339 million in 2012, missing the $384 million pencilled in by analysts in a company poll.
The shortfall reflected a widening of Catlin's projected Sandy loss to $225 million, from an initial estimate of $200 million published in December.
The insurer also said that the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise liner off the Italian coast in January last year would cost it $51 million, up from previous guidance of $35 million.
Catlin shares were down 2.2 percent by 0847 GMT, the second-biggest faller in the mid-cap FTSE 250 index, which was 0.3 percent higher.
"We expect the upgrade to Sandy loss estimates and a more surprising 45 percent increase on Costa Concordia will raise some questions," Espirito Santo analyst Joy Ferneyhough wrote in a note to clients.
Catlin's 2012 profit was still up almost fivefold from the $71 million it made in 2011, with natural disaster-related payouts falling to $225 million from $678 million.
Last year was a relatively quiet one for natural disasters, the biggest of which was Sandy, a 1,000-mile wide storm that struck the north east of the United States in October and is expected to cost the insurance industry up to $25 billion.
Insurers paid out a total of $65 billion in catastrophe claims last year, according to reinsurer Swiss Re, down sharply from $120 billion in 2011, when they had to foot the bill for Japan's Tohoku earthquake.
Catlin blamed the bigger Costa Concordia loss on an Italian government order that the vessel be removed whole to limit potential pollution, a more costly process than cutting it up.
The insurer is paying a 2012 dividend of 29.5 pence per share, an increase of 5.4 percent.
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