Dividends paid to parent insurance firms fall 65pc
THE gravy train of earnings flowing from Irish insurance companies to their international parents finally ended last year as dividends paid by insurers plunged more than 65pc.
The collapse in profit distributions is revealed in the Financial Regulator's insurance statistical review, which charts the sector's descent into loss-making territory.
In the heady days of the insurance boom, dividends from insurers operating out of Ireland surged as high as €2.4bn in 2007. By 2008, the figure had contracted to just under €1.6bn.
New figures out today show that less than €560m was distributed by Irish-based insurance companies last year, including €188.45m from life companies and €370.8m from general insurers.
The biggest payouts came from Aviva, which paid €110m from its general insurance arm, €4m from its health arm and €21.4m from its life insurance wing.
Allianz was also a substantial payer, with just over €50m, while FBD's dividends came in at €48m for the year. Barclay's controversial payment divisions paid about €22m, sharply down on the record €687m it paid in 2008.
Quinn Insurance Ltd (QIL), which paid hundreds of millions in dividends in the good years, paid out nothing last year.
The lower dividend payments come against a stark trading environment, with the non-life insurance sector plunging into the red and life insurance sales falling marginally.
The overall Irish insurance market posted a net underwriting loss of €124.5m for the year, against a profit of €121.9m for the year, as a fall in life insurance activity and spiralling general insurance cost took their toll.
Life insurance sales to the Irish market fell by 14.5pc last year, while the general insurance industry was racked by more than €250m of flooding costs.
There was better news for insurers writing international business out of Ireland though, was their premiums rose by 12.1pc in life insurance and by 111pc for general insurance.
The international business written from Ireland is also showing improved profitability, recording an under-writing result of €179.8m for 2009 against the €109m profit achieved a year earlier.
The surge in foreign risk written from Ireland also pushed the overall industry's gross written premium into positive territory, with this year's €40.19bn marginally higher than 2008's €38.39bn.