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European insurers grow cautious in overseas expansion

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European insurers continue to expand their overseas operations in a focused fashion, according to a report by A.M. Best Co. Inc.

While several medium-size reinsurers have used excess funds to engage in merger and acquisition activity recently, their large primary insurers have been less driven by a desire for greater scale.

Rather, according to the report published Monday, industry consolidation between primary companies has been driven by the desire grow faster in emerging markets, such as central and eastern Europe and Turkey and to achieve higher margins and more capital efficiency.

Domestic European insurance markets typically are stagnant with only muted premium growth in 2014, according to Best, “European Insurers Continue Overseas Expansion Drive but More Focused in Approach.”

“Previously, some European insurers were expanding in many territories, but nowadays they are more focused and cautious regarding specific regions as not all overseas strategies have been successful,” said Carlos Wong-Fupuy, senior director of analytics at Best in London, said in a statement.

“A.M. Best notes that the major participants are demonstrating increased discipline, for example, by attempting to shrink their exposures to underperforming risks and cut back on business subject to the most aggressive price competition,” he said.