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Bermuda insurers’ profits decimated - but market retains strong capital base

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Bermuda insurers’ profits were decimated last year by huge catastrophe losses, the latest figures from the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) showed.

Data based on 21 of ABIR’s 22 member companies showed that their combined net income was nearly $1.5 billion last year, down from $11.4 billion in 2010.

But their shareholders’ equity held steady at around $90 billion, despite the losses, and the group of 21 also wrote more business, with gross premiumns written rising to $65 billion from $62 billion in 2010.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan, earthquakes in New Zealand, severe weather in the US and floods in Thailand made last year one of the most expensive on record for insurers and reinsurers.

“It’s remarkable that the re/insurers in the ABIR membership could absorb record-setting catastrophe losses, yet on average continue to maintain a steady, solid capital base,” said noted Bradley Kading, ABIR president and executive director. “This accomplishment is a testament to the underwriting discipline and diversification of business that makes this market strong.

“One of the great stories of the mega cat loss year of 2011, is that global reinsurers absorbed 45 percent of the $105 billion in record-setting catastrophe losses. Risk spreading, pooling and diversification work, but protectionist regulations impede this risk spreading. If protectionism prevails through either regulation or tax policy, the insurance markets will be damaged as reinsurance supply will be fragmented and more difficult to obtain.”

Premiums written had remained flat during the four-year period 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, showing growth of only three percent from 2007 to 2010.

But for calendar year 2011, reported global gross written premium grew six percent for the membership from year-end 2010 to year-end 2011. Shareholders’ equity declined under one percent from $90 billion to $89 billion.

Mr Kading noted, though, that if all 22 members had reported data that shareholders’ equity would have remained at approximately $90 billion. Twelve of the re/insurers reported combined ratios of greater than 100 percent; and ten of the 22 companies reported net losses for the year. ABIR members provide substantial amounts of property catastrophe reinsurance to global markets. Their market share varies by jurisdiction but on a global basis it is assumed that 40 percent of the broker placed property catastrophe reinsurance is supplied by ABIR members and their affiliates.

ABIR members employed (year end 2010) nearly 32,000 people worldwide including 1,700 in Bermuda, 15,000 in the US and more than 8,000 in Europe.

Devastation: The scene in Natori, Japan, after last year's earthquake and tsunami
@$:ABIR president Bradley Kading

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Published April 17, 2012 at 9:36 am (Updated April 17, 2012 at 9:35 am)

Bermuda insurers’ profits decimated - but market retains strong capital base

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