Ingosstrakh Says It Collected 20% More in H1 Premiums

Ingosstrakh, the country's largest insurance company, collected 23 billion rubles ($987 million) in premiums in the first half of 2008, or 20.4 percent more than in the same period last year, general director Alexander Grigoriyev told reporters Tuesday.

"The first two quarters of 2008 were very dynamic for the world's leading insurance companies," Grigoriyev said, adding that overall insurance premiums had risen.

The INGO insurance conglomerate, which includes Ingosstrakh as well as a number of other Russian and foreign insurers, took in 34.5 billion rubles in premiums in the first half of the year, or 24.3 percent more year on year, the company said in a statement.

INGO paid out 21 billion rubles in the period, which is 33.5 percent more than in the first half of 2007.

Asked about the expected effects of inflation on the country's insurance market, Grigoriyev said real premiums would be smaller and that inflation, currently running at an annualized 15.1 percent, would take a serious toll on the company's profit.

The ruble's strengthening against the dollar will also push insurance rates higher, he said.

The Russian companies in INGO -- Ingosstrakh, Ingosstrakh-Zhizn, Ingosstrakh-M, the Emergency Insurance Company and Emesk -- had a net profit of 2.5 billion rubles ($107.2 million) in the first half of the year. The statement did not give a year-earlier figure.

Ingosstrakh was founded 60 years ago as a midsized administrative division of the Soviet Finance Ministry.

Billionaire Oleg Deripaska and units of his Basic Element holding company control around 60 percent of Ingosstrakh, Bloomberg reported in April.

Deripaska is in a court battle with Czech fund PPF Investments over an Ingosstrakh board decision last year to quadruple the insurer's share capital, which PPF says is not legitimate.