AM Best says reinsurers face ‘new reality’
PartnerRe Ltd is Bermuda’s largest writer of reinsurance and the ninth biggest in the world, according to data published by rating agency AM Best.
The company, which wrote $5.93 billion in reinsurance gross premiums last year and recently agreed to be acquired by Italian investment firm Exor, is one of 13 Bermuda-based reinsurers in Best’s Top 50 Global Reinsurance Groups. Many others, whose holding companies are based elsewhere but which are active in the Bermuda market, such as XL, Ace and Allied World, add to the Bermuda presence.
The Top 50 list is part of Best’s Special Report on Global Reinsurance, in which the agency maintains a negative outlook for the reinsurance industry, citing pressure on investment yields and underwriting margins that will put a strain on profitability.
The report says the industry is operating in a “new reality” of abundant capital, low interest rates and intense competition amid shrinking demand for reinsurance coverage.
Hard on the heels of PartnerRe in the rankings is tenth-placed Everest Re, which wrote $5.75 billion in gross premiums. Axis Capital placed 16th with $2.18 billion, while XL was 18th and Catlin 19th. This year the latter two companies have merged. Their combined reinsurance premiums total of almost $4.2 billion would have put XL Catlin in 12th place in 2014.
RenaissanceRe placed 26th and Arch Capital 27th, both topping $1.5 billion in premium, while 29th-placed Validus Holdings wrote $1.27 billion.
Endurance was 31st on the list with $1.18 billion in premiums and Montpelier Re — the company Endurance acquired earlier this year — was 43rd with $740 million. Their combined total would have sent them up to 23rd place.
Aspen and White Mountains placed 33rd and 34th respectively, while Maiden Holdings was 38th.
Hiscox (48th) and Third Point Re (49th) also made the list, while No 50, Qatar Re, will soon be a Bermuda company after announcing this week its intention to move its domicile to the Island.
Notable others on the list included Markel, Ace and Allied World, who were grouped together in 35th, 36th and 37th places respectively.
At the top of the list were the usual suspects, Munich Re, Swiss Re and Hannover Re. Berkshire Hathaway rose two places to number four, while Scor and the Lloyd’s market were at five and six.
Bermuda has become accustomed to waves of new reinsurers starting up after a major event — but Best said it believed the ‘Class of 2005’ would likely be the last ‘class’.
“The abundance of available capital has led to the lack of significant price increases following a loss event,” the report states.
“AM Best expects that if there were to be a catastrophe sufficient to move pricing, with the capital market’s capacity and flexibility, the inflow of capacity could make any such opportunity very short-lived.”
Explaining its reasons for the continued negative outlook for the reinsurance industry, Best stated: “Declining rates, broader terms and conditions, unsustainable flow of net favourable loss reserve development, low investment yields and continued pressure from convergence capital are all negative factors that will adversely impact risk-adjusted returns over the longer term,” Best stated.
“On the positive side, the mid-year renewal for property-catastrophe did provide some indication that the velocity of erosion on price and terms may be easing. It remains to be seen, however, if the market has reached bottom.”