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Global insurers' exposure to Japan disaster appears limited: Bank


SENDAI, Japan—International insurers likely will bear a relatively small proportion of economic losses from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday, according to a London-based investment bank.

While it is still too early to be certain of the extent of economic losses caused by the disaster, initial estimates are about $150 billion, London-based Jeffries International Ltd. said in a research note Monday. And international insurers likely will face losses of about $10 billion to $20 billion, Jeffries said.

While large infrastructure losses likely will be paid by the state, about 30% of the expected $60 billion of losses on commercial and specialist risk lines will have earthquake coverage, according to the note. Some of that earthquake coverage likely will be reinsured in the international markets, it said.

It is too early to be certain to what extent any marine or specialty lines risks will cause losses, Jeffries said, but these are unlikely to be significant for large global reinsurers, it said.

Bermuda and London market companies likely are at more risk from such losses, Jeffries said.

International insurers will face very little exposure to personal lines losses as most of these will be covered locally, Jeffries said.

All Japanese homeowners' earthquake coverage is ceded to a state-backed Japanese earthquake reinsurer in which losses are shared between private insurers and the government, it noted.

Jeffries said it expected the tsunami, which followed the 8.9 magnitude earthquake, to be treated under earthquake coverage rather than as a separate event.

While the losses likely will bring some stability to insurance pricing globally they likely will not be large enough to turn the insurance market, Jeffries noted.

“At this stage, we continue to believe that most losses will be sustained by individuals, corporates, domestic insurers and the Japanese state,” the note said.

Munich Reinsurance Co. on Monday said it was still too early to determine the size of losses caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

“In view of the complexity and severity of this particular event, it will take some considerable time to determine even approximately the overall economic loss as well as the loss amounts payable by individual reinsurers such as Munich Re,” it said.

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