NU Online News Service, Feb. 25, 8:54 a.m. EST
The latest New Zealand earthquake is “absolutely not” the type of event to harden the reinsurance market, said the global head of business intelligence for Guy Carpenter.
In terms of the size of loss and the effect the Feb. 22 earthquake will have on reinsurers’ earnings, it “would not create a sustained turn in rates,” said David Flandro of the global reinsurance intermediary.
Though a meaningful event, the impact of the destructive earthquake will be localized to the New Zealand market, added John DeMartini, leader of broker Towers Watson’s catastrophe risk management practice.
Mr. Flandro added, “It could change the supply and demand picture there.”
In January Mr. Flandro said a $50 billion hurricane loss “would only give the market pause for a year or so,” but a terror event or earthquake in a major city could have a larger effect.
Global reinsurance capacity remains more than adequate. The earthquake struck near Christchurch, New Zealand—an area affected by an earlier earthquake in September 2010. Though it is believed the latest earthquake has caused more damage than the September quake, Mr. Flandro said reinsurers’ disclosure from the September earthquake gives a look at exposure.
The median exposure to the September quake was 2 percent of global capital in the reinsurance market and 10 percent of 2010 pre-tax earnings, Mr. Flandro said. Aon Benfield in January reported that at the end of the 2010 third quarter there was $470 billion of reinsurer capacity.
Catastrophe modeler AIR Worldwide said losses from the earthquake are expected to be between NZ$5 billion (US$3.5 billion) and NZ$11.5 billion (US$8 billion).
Mr. DeMartini said the Feb. 22 temblor is being treated as a separate event, meaning losses felt by a company like Australia’s Suncorp will not be reinsured in full.
According to Moody’s, companies like Suncorp could have benefitted if this earthquake, which has been classified as an aftershock of the September quake, was not considered a new event.
The New Zealand Earthquake Commission (EQC) said other aftershocks from the September earthquake are considered separate events, according to a note from Willis Re sent to clients.
The country’s finance minister said that the EQC, which provides coverage of up to NZ$100,000 (US$73,385) per building for residential owners who purchase fire insurance, has sufficient funds to cover expected claims, Willis Re reported. The EQC is liable for the first NZ$1.5 billion (US$1.12 billion) of losses and it has NZ$2.5 billion (US$1.87 billion) in reinsurance cover.
It may take some time for the true impact of the earthquake to be realized. Mr. Flandro said claims from earthquakes “develop more slowly than wind events” because the damage isn’t always immediately evident.