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Reinsurers unlikely to see big rate hikes at coming renewals: Best

Hurricane Florence makes landfall in September 2018.

Jan. 1 reinsurance renewals were “disappointing” for reinsurers and prices are unlikely to increase substantially at the upcoming midyear renewals despite mounting 2017-2018 catastrophe losses, ratings agency A.M. Best Co. Inc. said Friday in a report.

“Most in the industry thought that, once the losses of the last 15 months were tallied, the January 1, 2019, renewals would provide a well-earned respite from insufficient pricing adjustments, but this did not happen,” Best said.

While some reinsurers walked away from poorly priced business, others, especially larger players, continued to focus on market share and were willing to write inadequately priced risks, Best said in the report.

The brightest spot for reinsurers in the January renewals was in the property cat retrocession business, which is controlled largely by third-party capital managers, where pricing was up 10% to 20%, with peaks of 35% on loss-affected accounts, due to a capacity crunch, Best said.

Otherwise, renewal rates were mostly flat, in some cases ranging from 5% to 10% increases, mainly in U.S. property catastrophe, which “proved a letdown for most,” Best reported.

Loss-hit property programs, including those affected by California wildfires, saw the largest pricing increases, by as much as 20%, Best said.

“Given the substantial losses of recent years, reinsurers are increasingly recognizing the importance of wildfire risk and focusing more on the definition of wildfire occurrence during negotiations,” Best said in the report.

But renewal rates were flat up to 10% for non-cat loss impacted accounts, while rates for loss-free programs were also flat with no more than 5% increases for cat perils and for non-cat risks prices deteriorated further, Best said.

Casualty and specialty reinsurance also saw some slight price increases, Best said. “Companies understand that rates are at unsustainable levels and that they need rate increases on a number of lines — such as commercial auto — following multiple years of losses and rate declines,” Best reported.

Workers compensation working layers have seen single-digit price increases in response to primary rate declines and a higher frequency of large losses, the report said.

While third-party capital providers seem to be more focused on returns, Best said it expects investors will continue to invest in third-party capital as the alignment with traditional capital continues, guaranteeing “an abundance of capacity for the reinsurance segment.”





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