Lloyd's of London has reported a £2.5 billion pretax profit for 2019 thanks to tighter underwriting and robust investment returns, and said it stood ready to support customers and partners impacted by coronavirus. 

The 330-year-old insurance market, which reports aggregate result figures of its syndicate members, said its solvency ratio - a key measure of balance sheet strength - was 205%.

This was despite a high degree of turbulence in financial markets in recent weeks. 

But it gave no early indications of the extent to which its members might be hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has paralysed the global economy, forced the lockdown of billions of people and claimed thousands of lives worldwide. 

"Now more than ever, our customers need us to be ready to support them through these challenging times," Bruce Carnegie-Brown, Lloyd's Chairman said. 

Earlier this month, Lloyds asked its member firms to provide estimates of their potential current and final losses from coronavirus to help the insurance market understand the likely extent of the financial hit it will take from the pandemic. 

Lloyd's of London insurers will be exposed to losses due to the cancellation of scores of sports events and other mass gatherings, as well as the postponement of the Olympics, though the losses will be less severe than if the Games had been cancelled altogether, industry sources say. 

Lloyd's insurers include listed firms Beazley and Hiscox. 

Chief Executive John Neal said "it had never been more important" to accelerate progress on its Future at Lloyd's modernisation plan, which would speed up claims processing and eventually see around 80% of its business supported digitally. 

Lloyd's has shut its "underwriting room" - where insurers and brokers transact deals face-to-face - for the first time in its history due to the pandemic.

It had already started the process of moving the market to electronic exchanges, to streamline operations and cut costs. 

Lloyd's suffered steep losses in 2017 and 2018 due to natural catastrophes such as hurricanes, typhoons and wildfires. 

It had told members to cut their worst-performing lines of business as part of a plan to return to profit in 2019. 

The market, which covers commercial risks from oil rigs to footballers' legs, recorded a loss of £1 billion in 2018, after a £2 billion loss in 2017.