March 1, 2012 / 8:46 AM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-Insurers Hardy, Novae sink to year loss

(Adds detail, CEO comment)

LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - Lloyd’s of London insurers Hardy and Novae both sank to a 2011 loss after absorbing large natural catastrophe claims, and remain interested in potential mergers, they said on Thursday.

Hardy slumped to a 42 million pound ($67 million) loss from a profit of 10 million in 2010, while Novae made a 6 million pound loss after a profit of 36 million.

Hardy, which launched a review of its business in December after receiving offers from suitors including rival insurer Beazley, said on Thursday it would let shareholders know what it had decided to do “as soon as possible”.

Novae, which made an unsuccessful attempt to merge with rival Omega last year, said it was still committed to exploring “value accreting corporate activity,” although no deals were imminent.

“It remains one of the levers we can pull. But is there anything on the blocks at the moment? Not really, no,” Novae chief executive Matthew Fosh told Reuters in an interview.

Hardy and Novae are two of the smallest publicly quoted Lloyd’s insurers, and have long been seen as likely to bulk up through mergers or takeovers.

Lloyd’s insurers have mostly reported sharply lower profits for 2011, the second-costliest year ever for the insurance industry after natural disasters including Japan’s Tohoku earthquake generated claims of $108 billion, according to reinsurer Swiss Re.

Novae absorbed total natural catastrophe claims of 70 million pounds, while Hardy said surging disaster losses had prompted it to cancel its final dividend.

Hardy’s thinly traded shares were down 2.5 percent at 195 pence by 0817 GMT, while Novae was 1 percent higher at 364.25 pence. ($1 = 0.6260 pound) (Editing by Dan Lalor)

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