Lloyd’s of London said it is facing an “exceptionally difficult” time as coronavirus rips through communities around the world, even as the insurance marketplace announced it had returned to profit last year.
The company hit a £2.5 billion pre-tax profit across the 12 months of last year, up from a loss of £1 billion in 2018, it said on Thursday.
The profit was driven by better investment markets in the first half of 2019.
Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown said: “The beginning of 2020 has proved exceptionally difficult as Covid-19 spreads rapidly around the world with devastating consequences for families, communities and the global economy. Now, more than ever, our customers need us to be ready to support them through these challenging times.
Lloyd’s said its net resources reached £39.6 billion in the period, an increase of 8.6%.
Chief executive John Neal said: “Whilst we are pleased to be announcing Lloyd’s return to profitability in 2019 and continued progress across our priorities, our primary focus right now is on supporting our customers and business partners in their time of need.”
Mr Neal said the market has an “unrivalled ability” to support businesses, people, and even countries in their response to the outbreak of Covid-19.
However, it is already facing lawsuits from customers urging it to pay out.
In a case filed against underwriters at Lloyd’s and others earlier this week, the Native American Chickasaw Nation asked a court to declare that its insurance covers losses and expenses from the Covid-19 pandemic, and that the insurers are responsible for these losses.
Earlier this month, Lloyd’s shut its underwriting floors for the first time in its 330-year history to perform a deep clean, just days after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.
The shutdown allowed Lloyd’s to test its emergency protocols, it said at the time.
More than three billion people worldwide have been told to stay in their homes as much as possible as the pandemic rips through communities.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson put Britain on lockdown, saying people must stay inside unless they are key workers, or they need to pick up shopping or exercise.