Ethias to Buy Reinsurance to Boost Solvency II Capital, CEO Says

Belgian insurer Ethias SA said it will reinsure 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) of policies to help boost its capital levels in response to regulators’ requests.

The state-owned company ruled out other emergency measures including a sale or capital increase, financial director and temporary Chief Executive Officer Benoit Verwilghen said in a call with analysts on Thursday. The call was scheduled after the previous CEO, Bernard Thiry, departed on Wednesday.

Ethias is trying to raise its Solvency II ratio, a measure of financial strength for insurers, to 150 percent in the second half of the year from 125 percent at the end of June. Low interest rates in Europe are making that difficult because the insurer is locked into costly policies while yields on assets that fund those liabilities are sliding.

“The regulator has asked us to put a plan in place to prove that our solvency ratio can be ameliorated, so we can get out of this turbulent zone,” Verwilghen said. “There is no plan B today that we want to execute,” but the company is considering other possibilities, he said.

While reinsuring life-insurance policies with a high guarantee rate would help meet regulatory demands, it “would penalize Ethias in terms of profitability,” CreditSights Ltd. analysts led by Philippe Picagne wrote in client note before the call.

Verwilghen declined to say what the company might pay for the reinsurance.

Ethias’s 5 percent junior bonds due January 2026 have dropped almost five cents on the euro since Monday to a five-month low of 78 cents, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.