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Insurers raising billions in uncertain times

Bermuda's re/insurers have been raising billions of dollars in capital in recent weeks amid a time of uncertainty and opportunity in the industry.

RenaissanceRe and Arch Capital have each announced $1 billion offerings this month, while Fidelis has doubled its capital base by raising $1.1 billion this year.

Two Bermudian-based companies with large operations in the Lloyd's of London market, Hiscox and Lancashire, have also raised hundreds of millions of dollars within the past two months.

Insurers and reinsurers will be hit with billions of dollars of claims related to Covid-19, but the extent of the losses remains unclear, particularly business interruption claims, some of which are subject to litigation in the US and UK.

Last month, Lloyd's projected global pandemic-related claims of up to $107 billion, while this week analysts at investment bank Berenberg estimated a hit of between $50 billion and $70 billion for the industry.

At the same time, volatility in the financial markets could reduce the value of insurers' investment portfolios.

The bright side for insurers is that the crisis has sparked an increase in reinsurance pricing, as well as improved rates for some primary lines, particularly for commercial risks.

Berenberg stated in its report: “While Covid-19 claims will be large, we believe they are manageable, and there are some offsets, namely lower motor claims during the period of lockdown, rate rises in reinsurance and in commercial lines, and from reduced competition from digital start-ups, which are running out of cash.”

Reports suggest double-digit increases in US commercial lines this year and that Florida hurricane reinsurance rates are trending more than 20 per cent higher.

Insurers who raise money will have capacity to sell more policies to take advantage of the pricing spike.

Fidelis has doubled its capacity to $2 billion this year, after last week's issuance of $300 million in ten-year bonds added to $800 billion of equity capital raised earlier this year.

Richard Brindle, chairman and chief executive officer of Fidelis, said: “We are seeing a broad-based hardening of rates and improvements to terms and conditions in multiple lines of business.

“This is due not just to the effects of Covid-19, but to multiple factors from ILS [insurance-linked securities] retrenchment to the increasing realisation that underwriting profits are the only sustainable basis for re/insurers to build long-term business success.”

Hiscox is facing considerable uncertainty over pandemic-related business interruption claims, with hundreds of its business customers having threatened legal action over the issue.

In May, the company raised about $465 million from a placement of new ordinary shares.

Bronek Masojada, Hiscox's CEO, said the intention was “to respond to growth opportunities and rate improvement in the US wholesale and reinsurance markets”.

The capital boost will give Hiscox “significant capital headroom to withstand a range of modelled downside scenarios as well as provide it with the flexibility to deploy capital for future growth”, Mr Masojada added.

Early this month, RenRe raised about $1.12 billion in a sale of new common stock that included $75 million sold to US insurer State Farm.

RenRe said it intended to use the net proceeds from the offering “for general corporate purposes, which may include expanding existing business lines, entering new business lines, forming new joint ventures, or acquiring books of business from other companies”.

Arch Capital Group this week launched a $1 billion offering of 30-year senior notes, priced at 3.635 per cent. The offering is expected to close on June 30, 2020. Net proceeds will be used for “general corporate purposes”.

Lancashire Holdings Ltd raised approximately £277 million (about $344 million) in an offering of common stock this month.

Lancashire said it was looking “to take some advantage of the current rate momentum, the rapid increase in rates and dislocation in reinsurance and retrocession markets” that “imply a return to a traditional ‘hard' market over the next six to 12 months”.

Opportunities ahead: Richard Brindle, chairman and CEO of Fidelis

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Published June 26, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated June 26, 2020 at 9:15 am)

Insurers raising billions in uncertain times

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