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Reinsurers face up to $166m Italy quake loss

Deadly quake: firefighters in the town of Amatrice following the earthquake last week in Italy. Reinsurers may face insured losses of up to $133 million

Reinsurers will face insured losses of between $66 million and $133 million from the earthquake which struck Italy last week.

That is the estimate of Fitch Ratings, which also expects insured losses for primary insurers to be in the range of $40 million to $90 million.

The magnitude 6.2 earthquake last Wednesday killed at least 290 people in the mostly rural Umbria region, about 65 miles northeast of Rome. It devastated a number of towns and municipalities.

In a statement, Fitch said: “Our estimate reflects the low density of population and businesses and limited insurance coverage in the region.

“Claims of this magnitude would not have a material impact on Italian insurers’ underwriting results or credit profiles. Italian non-life insurers wrote 2.3 billion euro ($2.5 billion) of gross written premiums of property insurance in 2015.”

A year ago, the first indemnity-trigger catastrophe bond primarily for Italian earthquake risk was launched by Willis Capital Markets & Advisory and insurer UnipolSai Assicurzioni. The Azzurro Re cat bond, which has 200 million euro ($226 million) of fully-collaterised protection, is not expected to be triggered by the quake.

The earthquake is predicted to cost Italy anywhere between $1 billion and $11 billion. The higher figure is an estimate from broker Aon Benfield.

In a report, Bloomberg noted the level of property and casualty cover taken out by Italians is among the lowest of the industrialised countries.

From data compiled by Swiss Re, insurance as a proportion of Italy’s gross domestic product was only 1.9 per cent in 2014. That compares with more than 3 per cent in France and Germany, and 8.1 per cent in the Netherlands, according to separate data from PwC.

Italy’s largest insurer, Assicurazioni Generali, and Germany’s Allianz SE have said they expect insurance claims to be limited because most of the homes in the largely residential areas were not covered for earthquakes.

Stefan Schuermann, an analyst at Vontobel Securities, said: “It’s very tragic that most people are not insured, although it wasn’t a secret that this region could be shaken by a quake.”

This was further highlighted by the New York-based Insurance Information Institute. Loretta Worters told The Royal Gazette: “The take-up rate for earthquake insurance in Italy is about 1 per cent. My understanding is that it is too expensive for them and many buildings are not retrofitted to withstand an earthquake.

“Many of the homes there are old, made of unreinforced masonry and don’t meet earthquake-proof standards, so it makes them even more vulnerable. They don’t have the building codes nor any of the modern technology in construction of homes.”

The gap between economic losses and the percentage of those losses covered by insurance is stark in Italy. In a list of the top ten costliest earthquakes and tsunamis by insured losses between 1980 and 2015, the series of earthquakes that struck Italy over nine days in May 2012 is listed eighth. Using data available when the losses occurred, the overall economic losses were $16 billion, but insured losses were only $1.6 billion.

After last Wednesday’s earthquake Italy declared a state of emergency. This means some losses will be covered by state funds, limiting losses for insurers. Italy will be able to apply for aid from the European Solidarity Fund.