RSA unveils £775m rights issue

Thursday 27 February 2014 17.51
RSA said it has already started making disposals, worth around £300m
RSA said it has already started making disposals, worth around £300m

Troubled British insurer RSA has begun a drive to raise up to £1.6 billion in capital, tapping shareholders for half and the rest from disposals and money saved by scrapping its dividend.
              
The plan was announced today as the company unveiled a £244m pre-tax loss for 2013 after it suffered an accounting scandal at its Irish business and large weather-related claims.
              
"RSA's 2013 results are poor and we need to grasp the nettles of both underperformance and under-capitalisation," its new chief executive Stephen Hester said.
              
The capital target was higher than the £500m to £1 billion that analysts had expected, with RSA shares ending the day more than 4% lower in London. 

RSA said it planned to launch a rights issue aiming to raise around £775m, details of which will be announced next month.
              
Hester told journalists on a conference call he expected the rights issue to conclude in April.
              

"In deciding how much capital we thought we needed, we wanted to have enough cushion so that whatever banana skins show up in the next couple of years, we can withstand them," he said.
              
The company also said it has already started making disposals, targeting around £300m in 2014 and Hester said more sales could follow in 2015.
              
The group said it would focus efforts on core businesses in the UK and Ireland, Canada, Scandinavia and Latin America and new initiatives to improve efficiency were already underway.
              
Former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Hester, who started in his current role earlier this month, acknowledged the turnaround would involve some job losses at the group.
              
The rest of the capital raised will come from retained earnings and the company said that "the impact of 2013 resultsmeans (a) final dividend cannot be justified."
              
Meanwhile, RSA also said it had secured a £550m "adverse development cover" contract with Berkshire Hathaway, allowing it to set aside less capital against the insurance it writes.
              
RSA's difficulties emerged last year with a series of profit warnings related to extreme weather in its Canadian and European core markets and the uncovering of accounting irregularities a tthe Irish business.
              
The ensuing scandal led to the departure of a number o fsenior figures, including group chief executive Simon Lee, an dthe company launched a strategic review of the business, as its credit rating came under threat.
            
RSA raised the alarm on potential problems in the Ireland business in November. A subsequent review by PricewaterhouseCoopers of the Irish claims and finance functions found signs of "inappropriate collaboration" in accounting by RSA's top executives. 

The company said it would inject £135m in capital to RSA Ireland and boosted the unit's reserves by £200m. 

RSA Ireland's chief financial officer Rory O'Connor and claims director Peter Burke left the company in January, while its CEO Phillip Smith resigned in November.