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LONDON-ACE Ltd. is the latest Bermuda insurer to gain a foothold in Lloyd's of London with its acquisition last week of a controlling stake in Methuen (Lloyd's Underwriting Agents) Ltd.

ACE, parent of high-level excess liability insurer ACE Insurance Co. Ltd., will obtain the stake in the managing agency after buying a 51% interest in its parent, Methuen Group Ltd. Hamilton-based ACE expects the acquisition, subject to Lloyd's approval, to be completed in the spring. ACE will have an option to acquire the remaining shares in Methuen in 1999 and 2000.

The Methuen investment "represents a major step in our strategy to reach new markets and diversify our product range," said Brian Duperreault, president and chief executive of ACE.

Leslie Goodman, chief executive of Methuen Group, said the new structure will provide Methuen with extra underwriting capacity and the capital to expand internally and through acquisitions.

Methuen is one of the largest managing agencies at Lloyd's, with an underwriting capacity this year of 367 million ($555.8 million). Its six Lloyd's syndicates underwrite diversified specialty lines primarily on non-marine, marine and aviation risks.

Corporate investment in Lloyd's has increased steadily since it was first allowed in 1994, with Bermuda companies increasingly taking an interest.

According to the chairman of one recent Bermuda investor, William Bailey of Terra Nova (Bermuda) Holdings Ltd., investment shows confidence in the long-term effects of Lloyd's reconstruction plan.

This support comes despite the fact that Lloyd's has yet to reach agreement with its members on the plan, which hinges on their acceptance of a settlement of lawsuits over underwriting losses.

Terra Nova last month acquired the ongoing business of five syndicates managed by Octavian Syndicate Management (BI, Dec. 18, 1995). This involves the creation of a new managing agency for 1996 and the provision of an additional 25 million ($37.8 million) of corporate capacity. Terra Nova has committed itself to providing another 75 million ($113.3 million) if necessary.

At the time, Mr. Bailey said corporate membership in Lloyd's enabled the Bermuda-based company to "be where the business is rather than ask the business to come to us." He also said it provides "the opportunity to participate in the world's oldest insurance and reinsurance market."

Recently, Lloyd's Brockbank Group P.L.C. announced the combination of its existing managing agency businesses with two new dedicated corporate syndicates that are supported by 50 million ($75.7 million) of capital provided by Bermuda-based Mid-Ocean Ltd. The property catastrophe reinsurer will have a 51% interest; Brockbank will hold 49%.