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Validus faces up to $65m loss on cruise ship disaster

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Validus Holdings’ likely claims payout on the

Costa Concordia disaster will not increase even if insured losses are much higher than currently forecast.

The Bermuda reinsurer’s chairman and CEO Ed Noonan told

The Royal Gazette that the company’s estimated loss of up to $65 million resulting from the cruise ship disaster was not a surprise, given the company’s significant presence in the marine market.

His comments came after Validus’s announcement of a narrow full-year profit in a challenging 2011.

Validus announced last week that it could be on the hook for between $50 million and $65 million based on total estimated insured losses from the cruise ship tragedy of $845 million to $950 million, representing a share of between six and seven percent of the industry-wide loss.

“It’s right in line with our market share,” Mr Noonan said. “We a big marine insurer in Bermuda and in London.

“The interesting thing about this is that no one really knows yet what the industry losses will be. But even if it goes to $1.5 billion our loss does not change, because of the protection we have bought.”

The

Costa Concordia ran aground and came to rest on its side off the Tuscan island of Giglio on January 13 after the ship’s captain veered from his approved course and gashed the ship’s hull on a reef. More than a dozen people are confirmed dead.

With such a significant marine market share, Mr Noonan said he considered such losses as “part and parcel of our business”.

In a year when the industry was hit by around $110 billion in claims, most people would not have expected a large cat reinsurer like Validus to be one of the companies to make money, he said, and he found it “extremely fulfilling” that his team had achieved that through excellent underwriting.

The company announced last Thursday that it had made a full-year profit of $21.3 million, compared to $402.6 million in 2010.

Huge insured losses over the past 18 months have put a large dent in reinsurance industry capital. This, combined with the introduction of widely used catastrophe models that have forced insurers to reassess potential losses, has led to increases in reinsurance rates.

Validus has done better than most in capitalising on the conditions, according to Mr Noonan.

“I think we did a great job of pushing prices,” he said. “We could have written a lot more business, but we deliberately reduced our exposure in North America, because we wanted to go for the better pricing.

“At January renewals, we saw a 15.7 percent increase in rates for North American business, while the wider market has been indicating about 10 percent.

“We feel that the market will continue to improve in North America and we know Asia will improve dramatically. We’re feeling very bullish about short-tail business.”

Mr Noonan said he was well satisfied with the company’s progress since it was set up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by Aquiline Capital Partners, a private-equity firm run by former Marsh & McLennan CEO Jeffrey Greenberg.

Since then it has shown the most prodigious growth of the Class of 2005 firms, with shareholders’ equity of more than $3.5 billion at the end of last year, boosted by the acquisition of another Bermuda reinsurer, IPC Holdings, in 2009. The choice of Bermuda as a domicile was the right one, Mr Noonan said.

“Like everybody else we have looked elsewhere, but we’ve not seen a domicile that is better, or even as good as Bermuda,” Mr Noonan said.

“We’re a Bermuda company, this is our HQ, we’ve got a great workforce and we’ve done extremely well here. Unless something very significant happens, we’re not going anywhere.”

Mr Noonan added that the capital of sidecar AlphaCat Re 2011 had been put to work, writing gross premiums of more than $76 million at January 1, and had attracted more investment in the fourth quarter. The collateralised vehicle was set up with $180 million in capital from Validus and outside investors in May last year.

The grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia lies on its side off the Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy,
Tragedy: The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia lies on its side after it ran aground off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy
Validus CEO Ed Noonan: Expects rates to continue to increase

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Published February 06, 2012 at 8:38 am (Updated February 06, 2012 at 8:37 am)

Validus faces up to $65m loss on cruise ship disaster

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