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Russian reinsurer eyes shift from sanctions business to Asia and beyond


(Reuters) — Russian National Reinsurance Co. aims to expand into China, India, the Middle East and Africa to increase income from premiums and diversify beyond Russia, its chief executive said.

State-owned RNRC was set up mainly to offer reinsurance to firms barred from using Western reinsurers due to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its annexation of Crimea. But RNRC also seeks to work with firms not affected by sanctions.

The company, which started operations on Jan. 1, collected 3 billion roubles ($52 million) in premium income in the first half of 2017, with a quarter from Russian firms under sanctions.

Chief Executive Nikolay Galushin told the Reuters Russia Investment Summit that all Russian firms under sanctions "have been reinsured by our company ... including the military industry's enterprises."

He said Western sanctions would not hurt the firm's business outside Russia and said RNRC's goal was to collect 500 million roubles in 2018 and 5 billion roubles in 2021 in premiums income from its business abroad, which would take it to 20% of overall income.

Total income was set to rise to 12 billion roubles in 2018, with businesses under sanctions accounting for 10% of the firm's portfolio, he said, adding that RNRC had also offered reinsurance to individuals on the sanctions list.

Since sanctions were imposed in 2014, Russia has launched several major infrastructure projects to boost the economy. Mr. Galushin said RNRC could provide reinsurance for those.

Part of the reason RNRC was set up was to ease pressure on Russia's biggest reinsurers, Sogaz and Ingosstrakh.

With capital of 21.3 billion roubles, its activities have been limited to 5 billion roubles per project. But Russia's central bank gave RNRC a financial guarantee worth 49.7 billion roubles in May so it could take on a bigger share of risks.

Mr. Galushin said the central bank would offer RNRC more capital if it faced a large payout to a company under sanctions.

Until it received the guarantee, Mr. Galushin said the firm had to pass up on providing reinsurance to "some projects from military technical cooperation (and) big exports contracts."

Russian law requires all Russian reinsurers to cede 10% of risks under their contracts to RNRC. But Mr. Galushin said that in 35% of cases more than 10% was ceded.

Mr. Galushin said the firm wanted to expand its business to firms not under sanctions, helping RNRC move toward an initial public offering that could attract Russian and Asian investors.

He did not suggest a timing, but said he would like to launch an IPO when the business that came from insurers ceding 10% of their risks to RNRC accounted for less than 50% of the firm's overall portfolio.

Projects reinsured by RNRC include Gazprom's Amur gas processing plant in the Russian Far East and its export pipelines, such as Power of Siberia, Blue Stream and Turkish Stream, Mr. Galushin said.

RNRC is also in talks to reinsure risks of a nuclear power plant that Russia's Rosatom plans to build in Bangladesh.

"Our cooperation with Chinese insurers involves us joining a number of joint projects, such as Power of Siberia, infrastructure, the silk road project, high-speed train link from Moscow to Kazan," Mr. Galushin said.

He said the firm was also looking at deals in India, Middle East, North Africa and ex-Soviet countries.