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Catastrophes hit reinsurers' cushion: Rating agency


NEW YORK—Reinsurers that are shouldering most of the $8 billion to $12 billion in estimated losses from the February earthquake in Chile have exhausted much of their cushion for the rest of the year, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services said Wednesday.

The earthquake losses “put a significant dent in many reinsurance companies’ annual catastrophe budgets,” S&P said in a report, “Reinsurers Foot the Bill for Chilean Earthquake Losses.” Many reinsurers have exhausted more than half of their budgets for the year, leaving them with reduced cushions to pay potential losses during the rest of this year, S&P noted.

The earthquake losses, together with those from Windstorm Xynthia in Europe, winter storms along the U.S. East Coast, severe weather in Australia and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill “could have material unfavorable effects on the earnings of property/casualty reinsurers worldwide,” according to the report.

“If 2010 turns out to be an active catastrophe year, as the trend indicates, and aggregate losses are in the tens of billions of dollars, the cumulative effects of these losses could erode the capital of a few reinsurers, which could cause us to take rating actions,” S&P said.

The report is available to S&P RatingsDirect subscribers at or

Nonsubscribers can purchase a copy of the report by calling 212-438-7280 or sending an e-mail to