Catastrophe Reinsurers See Little Pricing Relief in 2016

  • Stephen Catlin: `Prices aren’t going up anytime soon'
  • Rates fell in each of the three renewal periods in 2015

The world’s largest reinsurers and brokers see little relief in pricing in 2016 amid a relentless influx of alternative capital from pension funds and one of the past decade’s quietest years for catastrophe losses.

Rates for property-and-casualty reinsurance are expected to show further declines when firms renew policies in January, according to executives gathering at the industry’s annual meeting in Monte Carlo this week. That follows rate declines at each of the three renewal periods in 2015.

“Capacity remains abundant,” Alex Moczarski, chief executive officer of reinsurance broker Guy Carpenter, said at a briefing on Saturday. This is “maintaining pressure on pricing on terms and conditions.”

Reinsurers and brokers from Munich Re to Guy Carpenter, owned by Marsh & McLennan Cos., flew into the seaside town to negotiate pricing for property-and-casualty policies in 2016. They’re talking amid a record $425 billion of surplus capital available to underwrite risk which includes about $65 billion from alternative providers, according to Willis Re figures.

Challenges Remain

Reinsurers are flush with cash because they haven’t had to pay major catastrophe claims in recent months, executives say. So far this year, reinsurers have paid out $16 billion in catastrophe losses, 26 percent below the historical 10-year average and on pace to be the industry’s quietest year for losses since 2006, data from Aon Benfield shows.

“Prices aren’t going up anytime soon, that’s for sure,” Stephen Catlin, deputy chairman of XL Catlin, said in an interview Sunday. “While some of the steepest declines are coming to an end, I still think prices will be down closer to 5 percent.”

Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer, said it expects the market to remain challenging in 2016 even as pricing pressure does begin to ease. France’s Scor SE said it expects to see a “softening” of rate declines at the January renewals as it becomes harder to lower prices further in some areas of the market.

Hannover Re CEO Ulrich Wallin said Monday that prices will start to “flatten out” in 2016, though buyers of reinsurance will continue to be favored next year because of overcapacity. “Things are getting tight” for the reinsurer and more “compromises” are being made, he said.

“Price competition is not over, why should it be over in the next renewal,” Torsten Jeworrek, a member of Munich Re’s board of management, said Sunday. “We have seen a slightly better picture in the last renewals in the cat market in the U.S., but it’s not a trend. It was a slower rate reduction than previous years. I would hope that this continues, but I don’t know.”

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