Late April Tornadoes Likely to Affect P/C Insurers’ Earnings, Not Capital

May 23, 2011

The deadly outbreak of tornadoes in late April, which generated insured losses estimated at as much as $6 billion, is unlikely to have an immediate impact on property/casualty insurers’ Best’s ratings.

The ratings agency said that capital remains generally robust, and primary insurance companies are positioned to absorb this loss. Where reinsurance programs have been attached, covers are expected to respond appropriately. The net impact is likely to affect earnings but not capital, the analyst said.

Because individual tornadoes tend to have limited geographic scope, the greatest threat to insurers from such storms is a direct hit on the territory of a small, geographically concentrated writer without sufficient reinsurance to absorb the losses.

The major catastrophe modelers have published estimated tornado losses from the late April outbreak ranging from $2 billion to $6 billion.

A.M. Best said its outlook on the personal lines segment remains stable, as risk-adjusted capital remains strong and operating performance is generally adequate, mostly because of auto, with property representing only about 20 percent of the segment’s net written premium. In addition, the ratings firm said companies continue to address risk management and sophistication in pricing of property business.

Still, weather losses have been significant, with hurricane season yet to begin. Catastrophes’ impact on the segment’s 2011 combined ratio, which A.M. Best earlier estimated at approximately five points, could be higher, given forecasts of an active Atlantic hurricane season.

A.M. Best said its commercial lines segment remains under a negative rating outlook, but it expects the tornado losses to have only an earnings impact.

A.M. Best analysts do not expect the tornado losses to develop into a material event for the reinsurance market, although these more recent losses come on top of the catastrophe losses incurred in the first quarter

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