Best Reports on Reinsurers: ‘Humbled, But Most Not Broken’

August 18, 2006

In its recently issued global insurance report A.M. Best Co. concludes that “almost a year after three massive hurricanes—Katrina, Rita and Wilma—the global reinsurance industry is still struggling to manage its catastrophe exposure.”

The report, “Reinsurers Humbled, But Most Not Broken, By Hurricane Losses,” notes that their impact was felt worldwide. “Reinsurers absorbed 60 percent of the record insured property losses,” said Best. “Bermuda and U.S-based companies have borne the brunt so far, at $11 billion and $7 billion, respectively. Ultimate costs may not be known for some time.”

“The 28-page report notes that the underlying stability of the current reinsurance market remains tenuous, even though most reinsurers are financially positioned to meet their claim obligations. Since the 2005 hurricanes, the financial-strength ratings of 13 U.S. and Bermuda reinsurers have been downgraded or withdrawn after being downgraded, as of July 31, 2006. Hurricane losses were a factor in each of these actions. Four Bermuda-based companies also have been placed in run-off.”

The new report also includes Best’s annual ranking of the Top 35 Global Reinsurance Groups based on gross written reinsurance premiums for 2005. The top five – Munich Re, Swiss Re Group, Berkshire Hathaway Group, Hannover Re and Lloyd’s of London. But, as Best notes, “Swiss Re has since closed on its purchase of GE Insurance Solutions, which should help it reach the top when 2006 premiums are reported.”

Best also concluded that “reinsurers are bracing for a long period of heightened catastrophe risk. The report details the rapid growth in securitization and catastrophe bonds as reinsurers look to the capital markets to strengthen their balance sheets. Based on current trends, it appears that the reinsurance industry will become an even more capital-intensive business than it has been traditionally.”

An excerpt from the report, which includes a video, is available at

BestWeek subscribers can download a PDF copy of all full special reports at no additional cost or a combination of the PDF copies plus all related spreadsheet files of the report data at no additional cost from the Website.

Nonsubscribers can download a PDF copy of the full special report (28 pages) for $85 or a combination of the PDF copy plus the spreadsheet file of the report data for $220, also from the Website.

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