Insurance News

Global Reinsurance Market Disappointing Overall, Brokers Say

Posted on: July 8, 2009

While hopes were high for the 2009 reinsurance market after the troubles of 2008, many rate expectations were not met, although capacity has remained steady, reinsurance brokerages reported.

In a study released today by Willis Re, Chief Executive Officer Peter C. Hearn commented that previous speculation was that global reinsurers would see “an acceleration in rate increases over the next 12-to-18 months as reinsurers sought to deliver solid underwriting margins to offset investment losses.”

In addition to Willis, Aon Benfield and Guy Carpenter gave their assessments of the market.

Mr. Hearn said that while rate increases were achieved at the June 1 and July 1 renewals in some classes, “overall the reinsurance market is behaving in a more orderly fashion than anticipated by many, with buyers being able to fulfill their capacity requirements in virtually all areas.”

Mr. Hearn said initial signs of recovery in the financial markets, steps taken by reinsurers that anticipated pressure from exchange rate volatility, as well as lower open market purchasing by residual markets in the Florida and Texas Wind Pools “eased the capacity squeeze in some of the most demanding U.S. peak property catastrophe zones.”

In the U.S. property market nationwide, Willis said:

• Rate increases in the region of 10-to-15 percent were achieved in capital-intensive classes such as peak zone U.S. catastrophe.

• Merger and acquisition activity is picking up”those with stronger balance sheets seek to adjust their portfolio mix and/or acquire platforms in markets previously difficult to access.

• There is a continuing disconnect between buyers and sellers in the marine sector over the pricing of Gulf of Mexico energy-exposed business, with buyers looking to co-insurance and/or higher retentions as solutions to high relative prices.

• Rates outside U.S. peak catastrophe zones have not shown much real increase, as diversification of exposure remains a pricing driver.

Aon Benfield said in a report, also released today, that the expected rate hardening, based on the experience of earlier 2009 renewal dates, “caused many U.S. programs to be marketed and placed in advance of July 1.”

According to the report, U.S. pricing changes for July 1 renewals were consistent with the level at June 1 renewals”increasing 10-to-15 percent.

Outside of the U.S., Aon Benfield said, pricing experience was mixed at July 1, but overall trends suggested a tendency toward “holding rates firm where technical levels are at the low end of reinsurers’ expectations.”

The broker said that loss experience in Australia, in 2008 and early 2009, influenced renewals of local programs. In Asia, it said that excluding Japan and China, there were no major changes in coverage, exclusions and conditions.

“Some countries in this region saw price decreases due to excess capacity in these markets,” Aon Benfield said, noting that price increases of up to 5 percent were recorded in the United Kingdom for property catastrophe business.

In a briefing released by Guy Carpenter, Chris Klein, Global Head of Business Intelligence, observed, “With four major renewal periods having been completed in this calendar year, there is a general sense of calm in the reinsurance markets, aided by stabilization in the global financial markets.

A few notable hotspots remain, however, based on region- or program-specific factors.”

In Latin America, Guy Carpenter said:

• Though preliminary data varied by country, upward pressure on pricing was offset by supply and local market competition, keeping reinsurance rate increases contained.

• Mexico sustained average price increases between 2.5 percent and 10 percent for earthquake and windstorm catastrophe excess of loss programs (XOL). Central American earthquake and windstorm pricing was similar. Reinsurance renewal rates in Chile and the Caribbean”and some multiterritory programs”were higher.

• Widespread price hikes were prevented by a competitive primary market, reinsurance broker competition, and the fact that capacity was mostly unchanged from July 1, 2008.

• Price increases for risk XOL programs in Mexico and Central America were relatively modest, averaging 2.5-to-5 percent, Guy Carpenter said.

Lara Mowery, global head of Property Specialty Practice with Guy Carpenter, said, “Though the replenishing of balance sheets remains slow, the industry has, for the most part, stemmed its capital losses.”

She added, “It is fair to say that the property-catastrophe reinsurance market remains finely balanced, with capacity across most lines remaining adequate to meet demand. Price increases have been steadily in the 10-to-15 percent range.”

While hopes were high for the 2009 reinsurance market after the troubles of 2008, many rate expectations were not met, although capacity has remained steady, reinsurance brokerages reported.

In a study released today by Willis Re, Chief Executive Officer Peter C. Hearn commented that previous speculation was that global reinsurers would see “an acceleration in rate increases over the next 12-to-18 months as reinsurers sought to deliver solid underwriting margins to offset investment losses.”

In addition to Willis, Aon Benfield and Guy Carpenter gave their assessments of the market.

Mr. Hearn said that while rate increases were achieved at the June 1 and July 1 renewals in some classes, “overall the reinsurance market is behaving in a more orderly fashion than anticipated by many, with buyers being able to fulfill their capacity requirements in virtually all areas.”

Mr. Hearn said initial signs of recovery in the financial markets, steps taken by reinsurers that anticipated pressure from exchange rate volatility, as well as lower open market purchasing by residual markets in the Florida and Texas Wind Pools “eased the capacity squeeze in some of the most demanding U.S. peak property catastrophe zones.”

© Copyright 2009 National Underwriter Property & Casualty. A Summit Business Media publication. All Rights Reserved.

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