British insurer RSA said premiums had fallen this year because of soft markets and its focus on areas offering higher returns as the company works to turn around its business under new chief executive Stephen Hester. 

RSA unveiled a £244m loss last year.

Simon Lee quit as chief executive after the firm was hit by a series of weather-related claims and an accounting scandal at its Irish unit. 

Under former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Hester, RSA set outplans earlier this year to raise up to £1.6 billion in capital, tapping shareholders for nearly half and scooping up the rest from disposals and money saved by scrapping its dividend. 

Net written premiums of £5.7 billion for the first nine months were down 9% on a year earlier on a constant currency basis, the company said in a trading statement. 

Competitive markets and low bond yields were putting additional pressure on the company's performance, Hester said. 

"The insurance markets are reasonably soft, most people are reporting declines in topline income and interest income is also nudging downwards as bond rates are going downwards," he said.

Hester reiterated that the company planned to pay a dividend next year. "We obviously will restart at a modest level and rebuild over time." 

Tangible equity, the company's measure of net assets, rose to £2.9 billion in the third quarter from £2.6 billion in the previous quarter. 

Announced disposal proceeds for the year to date to the end of September were £740m and further disposals are targeted over the next 12 months, RSA said. 

The firm's sell-off has included businesses in Asia, central Europe and Italy, with future disposals focusing on emerging markets other than Latin America. 

RSA's shares have risen nearly 20% this year, outperforming the FTSE index and the firm's insurance peers. But they have only recouped around half of last year's losses.