‘Covid, economic uncertainty to weigh on earnings of non-life insurers’

Benz Seo

India’s general insurance sector — which grossed around Rs 2 lakh crore of total premium — might have faced the Covid-19 disruptions in a positive manner, but rating agencies have given the industry thumbs down. International rating agency AM Best has maintained its negative market segment outlook on India’s non-life […]

India’s general insurance sector — which grossed around Rs 2 lakh crore of total premium — might have faced the Covid-19 disruptions in a positive manner, but rating agencies have given the industry thumbs down.

International rating agency AM Best has maintained its negative market segment outlook on India’s non-life insurance industry as the ongoing pandemic is likely to exacerbate pressure on non-life insurers’ underwriting and investment performance. Factors supporting AM Best’s negative outlook on the non-life insurance market include competitive market conditions, persistently poor pricing discipline and reliance on investment activities for profitability, which have been prevalent for a number of years.

In its report on ‘India Non-Life Insurance’, AM Best stated that historically, India’s economic growth fundamentals have spurred non-life insurance market expansion. However, in fiscal 2021, despite India’s GDP contracting by nearly 8 per cent, the non-life insurance market achieved a positive, albeit muted, growth rate of over 5 per cent.

Prospectively, AM Best expects the trajectory of non-life insurance premiums to continue to be one of growth over the long-term, with rising consumer awareness and accessibility of insurance products.

More-recent market dynamics also include heightened economic uncertainty and Covid-19 implications, which are expected to weigh further on non-life insurers. Although the segment consists of a diverse range of insurance companies, the general operating environment in India over the short-term will present clear challenges for non-life insurers’ earnings and capital positions, it said.

Additionally, AM Best expects regulatory and market advancements to continue to drive investment in digital infrastructure, which will likely support India non-life insurers’ online sales, operations and risk management.

It said the non-life market is likely to face several headwinds over the medium-term. Factors that could lead AM Best to revise its segment outlook to stable from negative include evidence of sustainable improvement in underwriting performance, supported by better pricing discipline, as well as an improved balance of overall earnings and stabilised economic indicators.

India saw the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to a nationwide lockdown for 2 months, and additional local lockdowns thereafter, Icra said. This led to a slowdown in growth to 4 per cent, at Rs 1.85 lakh crore (excluding premiums mobilised by specialised general insurers) in FY21.

 

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