RSA shares jump on report of no further writedowns

Monday 06 January 2014 16.05
RSA has issued three profit warnings in the last few months
RSA has issued three profit warnings in the last few months

Shares in RSA rose more than 7% after a newspaper reported it would likely face no further writedowns at its Irish business, already beset by a capital shortfall of £200 million.

The company issued three profit warnings in late 2013 as it looked to shore up the finances of the unit in response to accounting scandal that had led several executives, including chief executive Simon Lee, to leave.

The Sunday Telegraph said accountants PwC, who had been called in to lead investigation into the problems at the Irish unit, were expected to announce on Thursday that it was an isolated incident.

Last month, CEO Simon Lee quit after the insurer warned on profits for the third time in six weeks, prompting the chairman to initiate a review that could lead to the sale of part of the business.

RSA's troubles stem partly from accounting problems at its Irish business, which the insurer said needed another £130 million to plug a capital hole on top of the £70 million identified in November.

The resignation of Lee, who left with a one-year pay packet of £824,000, capped a difficult year for Britain's largest general insurer, which cut its dividend in February because of weak investment returns.

It has underperformed its European peers, such as Aviva and Generali this year by about 40%.

Chairman Martin Scicluna, who took on an executive role until Lee is replaced, said in December that the company's objective was to improve the capital strength of the group, which has been put under pressure by its Irish business.

RSA, which makes about two-thirds of its revenue outside Britain, has businesses in Scandinavia, Canada, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Analysts said its emerging markets, Canadian and Scandinavian businesses were likely to attract interest from competitors if they are included in a disposal programme.