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Emerging markets offer strong industry growth

Emerging markets offer strong industry growth

Insurance business in emerging market countries continues to grow, according to a new sigma study from Zurich, Switzerland-based Swiss Reinsurance Co., with indications that growth will remain strong in coming years.

The study examined insurance industry trends in emerging markets in five regions: Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Turkey, and Africa. In 2005, life insurance premiums increased 7.5% in the markets studied, Swiss Re said, while property/casualty premiums increased 6%.

Robust growth in life insurance business in emerging market countries is driven by improving economic fundamentals and rising household incomes, Swiss Re said, though some markets have experienced a negative impact from regulatory changes, such as the withdrawal of favorable tax benefits in Russia or adverse effects from pension fund or accounting regulation changes in Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

Among the trends in the property/casualty area in emerging market countries, Swiss Re noted that the $1.8 billion in losses Mexico suffered from Hurricane Wilma in 2005 underscored the importance of adequate protection against natural catastrophes there. Market liberalization in some countries also stands to benefit insurance business, such as India's removal of tariff rates from nearly all lines of business, which is expected to open up insurance industry competition there.

Swiss Re said its outlook for emerging insurance markets is favorable, though some countries will be challenged by the tightening monetary policy of major central banks along with rising geopolitical risks.

The study, "Insurance in emerging markets: sound development; greenfield for agricultural insurance," can be found online at