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LONDON (Reuters) - Underwriters at Lloyd's of London [SOLYD.UL] lost money in 2016, driving the 90-plus syndicates in the insurance market to be more selective in the risks they take on and forcing Lloyd's to cut its subscription rates.
To tackle the downturn in premium rates, insurers would need to review their business plans for 2017 and exert the same "underwriting discipline" they had in 2016, Lloyd's said on Tuesday in its annual end of year email.
"Current year underwriting is not profitable in aggregate at the moment... this is a matter of great concern to us," Lloyd's Chairman John Nelson and Chief Executive Inga Beale said.
Stiff competition in insurance, which has typically offered high returns, has put pressure on premium rates in the last few years and Lloyd's has responded by changing its structure to cut costs, and is lowering 2017 market subscriptions by 10 percent.
Lloyd's was also continuing to expand its global presence, Beale and Nelson said in the letter, with a reinsurance branch in India expected to get going in 2017 and discussions for a reinsurance licence in Malaysia "at an advanced stage".
As part of its preparations for Brexit, Lloyd's was continuing to make the case to the British government for retaining current trading rights with the European Union, but was also finalising work on alternative trading options.
"This is designed to ensure the Lloyd’s market will be able to continue to trade with the EU – albeit with a different structure," they said.
It is likely to set up a subsidiary in one EU jurisdiction to "passport" its services, industry sources say, although Lloyd's could also open local branches across the bloc.
Lloyd's of London insurers include listed firms Beazley, Hiscox and Lancashire.
Editing by Simon Jessop and Alexander Smith