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Munich Re sees $2.1b loss from Japan disaster

frankfurt (Bloomberg) Munich Re, the world's biggest reinsurer, dropped its 2011 profit target after estimating the company's claims from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan will reach about 1.5 billion euros ($2.1 billion).

The first quarter's “major-loss burden from natural catastrophes amounts to over 2.5 billion euros, thus far exceeding the volume to be expected for this period,” the reinsurer said in a statement yesterday. “That means the profit target for 2011 of around 2.4 billion euros is no longer achievable.”

The reinsurer on March 10 reiterated its full-year profit target after natural catastrophes including the earthquake in New Zealand and Cyclone Yasi in Australia cost it about A$1.5 billion ($1.5 billion) in the first two months of the year. One day later, the 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit off Japan's coast on March 11 and left more than 9,000 people confirmed dead.

Munich Re's preliminary claims figure is after retrocession and before tax, the company said, adding that its losses result mainly from commercial insurance coverage.

Reinsurers, which help protect primary carriers such as Allianz SE and Axa SA against the cost of major claims from disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes, limit their own risks by selling parts of them to other reinsurers in a process known as retrocession.

“With the exception of covers placed with mutual insurers, earthquake insurance for residential buildings in Japan is provided solely by the Japanese earthquake pool, which is insured by the Japanese state together with private Japanese insurance companies,” Munich Re said.

Catastrophe modeling firm Eqecat said on March 16 that insurers and reinsurers will probably have losses of $12 billion to $25 billion from the Japan earthquake and tsunami. Modeller AIR Worldwide had estimated losses of as much as 2.8 trillion yen ($35 billion) from the quake alone.

Swiss Reinsurance Co., the world's second-biggest reinsurer, estimated on March 21 it will face claims of about $1.2 billion from the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan. The figure is low because Japan's government insures residential properties covered by non-life companies against earthquake and tsunami damage and this protection is not reinsured internationally, the Zurich-based company said.

Scor SE, the world's sixth-largest reinsurer, said on March 14 that its claims will be less than 185 million euros.

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Published March 23, 2011 at 10:13 am (Updated March 23, 2011 at 10:13 am)

Munich Re sees $2.1b loss from Japan disaster

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