Thai Insurer Offers First Coronavirus Insurance Policy

By Anuchit Nguyen | February 10, 2020

The world’s best-performing insurance firm has seized on the latest health concern to offer Thailand’s first policy to cover the novel coronavirus.

TQM Corp., with partner Bangkok Insurance Pcl, this week introduced a policy that costs 299 baht ($9.62) and will pay holders 50,000 baht if they contract the disease. The coverage is aimed at easing “the public’s deep fears,” rather than giving TQM a significant earning boost, said President Unchalin Punnipa.

The coronavirus crisis has ripped through Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy. Thailand has among the most infections outside China, and that’s prompted a slump in tourists, a drop in public gatherings, and shortages of hygiene products such as surgeon masks.

“The outbreak is raising awareness among Thais about the need for health insurance,” Unchalin said in a phone interview. “The revenue from the new policy is unlikely to be material, but our main goal to calm the public’s fears during this coronavirus crisis.”

TQM is showing its own resilience, with the shares thriving amid a slowdown in Thailand’s economy and the spread of the new coronavirus that started in China. Its stock has rallied about 25% this year, the best performer among Thai SET 100 Index companies, compared with little change in the overall gauge. The stock has delivered a total return of more than 200% in the past year, the largest gain among the world’s insurers and insurance-service companies with a market value of at least $500 million, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

International equity funds have been pulling money from Thailand as the economy, already reeling from a drought, budget delay and export slump, faces a tourism-industry squeeze from trip cancellations. But TQM’s emphasis on health coverage and flexibility as a broker for insurers such as AXA SA and FWD Group Ltd. is attracting investors.

TQM’s stock traded at about 41 times estimated earnings for the next 12 months, compared with a multiple of about 11 for the measure of publicly traded insurance stocks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The valuation is “quite stretched,” but the company’s dominance in the domestic market attracts a lot of interest from institutional investors during this turbulent period, said Suwat Bumrungchatudom, an analyst at Bualuang Securities Pcl in Bangkok.

–With assistance from Lee Miller.

Photo: BEIJING, CHINA– A Chinese passenger that just arrived on the last bullet train from Wuhan to Beijing is checked for a fever by a health worker at a Beijing railway station on January 23, 2020 in Beijing, China. Cases have been reported in other countries including the United States,Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

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