Update: German Flood Claims Estimated at $1.1B, Says Fitch Ratings

By and | June 7, 2016

Insurers will face higher-than-expected claims related to floods in Germany, according to Fitch Ratings, dealing another blow to an industry squeezed by low interest rates and decreasing prices for policies.

Claims linked to torrential rain, thunderstorms and floods that hit southern Germany from the end of May could reach 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), Fitch said in a report Tuesday. The credit-rating company said public-sector insurers may be most affected by the disasters, including Versicherungskammer Bayern and SV SparkassenVersicherung Holding AG, both owned by German regional savings banks.

The economic losses could be significantly higher, given that only a third of home-insurance policies in Germany include natural hazard cover, Fitch said. The German insurance industry’s GDV lobby group has estimated claims of about 450 million euros [$510.9 million] from storm “Elvira” that primarily hit Germany’s Southwest at the end of May.

Fitch increased its forecast for the combined ratio of German non-life insurers to 95 percent from 93 percent, indicating rising claims and costs as a proportion of premiums.

Insurers, which invest large portions of their money in fixed-income assets, have been under pressure from record low or negative interest rates and tighter capital rules. The previous lack of natural catastrophes had also generally pushed down prices on insurance coverage.

Stuttgart-based SparkassenVersicherung has said it will face claims in the “double digit” millions. Versicherungskammer Bayern of Munich said it expects about 60 million euros [$68.1 million] in claims from storm fronts “Elvira” and “Friederike” that hit Germany over the past days. Provinzial Rheinland, a public-sector insurer based in Dusseldorf, said it sees claims from both storms of 20 million euros [$22.7 million] based on initial estimates.

With a bill reaching $3.4 billion, 2002 was the costliest year in terms of flood claims affecting Germany, according to data by Munich Re. More than a week of continuous heavy rain made rivers including the Elbe and Danube burst their banks, inundating eastern Germany and neighboring countries. Floods in the same area in 2013 cost insurers about $3 billion.

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