A.M. Best: Reinsurers Stay Afloat In Sinking Economy

August 31, 2009

Two years into the global financial crisis, global reinsurers’ performance to date could be counted as an achievement, given the state of the financial services industry and the economy, says A.M. Best.

The reinsurance industry entered 2009 with sound underwriting results. Pretax operating income returns, excluding realized losses, were double-digit in general, but earnings on a total return basis moved sharply downward, driven by realized and unrealized losses.

Through first half 2009, the majority of reinsurers posted favorable operating results, primarily due to moderate catastrophe activity and improved capital market conditions as the stock market rallied. This has led to a recovery of sorts in asset valuation, the rating agency said. But Best cautioned that a broad recovery in rates has yet to occur, and the industry is bracing for the hurricane season. Reinsurers have been able to regain some of the ground lost last year, when rates still were falling, but casualty rates are considered far from adequate.

Outlook: A.M. Best Co. is maintaining a stable outlook in 2009 for the global reinsurance sector.

Pricing: Players in the market are exerting conflicting pressures on pricing, depending on their strategic positions.

Property Catastrophe: Overall, property cat renewals on cat-exposed U.S. accounts yielded 15 percent increases, but around the world, increases generally were in the single digits.

U.S. Reinsurance/Bermuda Market: Considerable loss reserve releases helped drive 2008 underwriting results, shaving approximately seven points off the segment’s loss ratio.

Europe: Investment losses and significant catastrophes contributed to a reduction in underwriting performance and suppressed net earnings.

Source: A.M. Best Company,
www.ambest.com

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