Putting middling 2010 behind, SEE insurers focus on longer run

By Kristina Belkina, Georgi Georgiev

The crisis has interrupted the growth of the insurance sector in Southeast Europe (SEE) – the combined gross written premium income of the SEE TOP100 insurance companies dipped to 6.5 billion euro in 2010 from 6.6 billion euro in 2009, but the prevailing sentiment among the market players is that business will again return to normal and that the longer–term prospects of the region, where insurance density rates have a long way to go to catch up to Western European standards, remain undiminished.

Companies from the smallest and the biggest country in the region, Slovenia and Romania, nearly muscled out everyone else from the top of the SEE TOP 100 Insurers ranking. Only one Croatian and one Serbian insurer prevented their clean sweep of the top 10 of the biggest players in terms of gross premium income in 2010.

The unchallenged leader in the SEE TOP 100 Insurers ranking remains Slovenia’s Zavarovalnica Triglav with gross written premiums of 721.3 million euro for 2010, down from the previous year’s 744.5 million euro.

The company said it mitigated the negative impact last year from the weaker demand for insurance products most vulnerable to fluctuations in the purchasing power of households and to slowing economic activity by redesigning several insurance classes, adapting to its clients’ needs, paying more attention to risk assessment and underwriting and cutting operating costs.

The company said earlier this year it plans to enter Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Across SEE, Triglav Group is currently present in Slovenia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. It also does business in the Czech Republic.

The Slovenian group’s units in Croatia (Triglav Osiguranje), Serbia (Triglav Kopaonik) and Bosnia (Triglav BH Osiguranje) also earned spots in the SEE TOP 100 Insurers ranking for 2010 at 34th, 67th and 74th place, respectively.

Croatia Osiguranje occupies the second place in the ranking with a gross premium income of 392.7 million euro last year.

Its gross premiums were 4.43% down from 2009 as the overall recessionary environment and the problems dogging the financial industry as a whole reflected on the performance of Croatia’s insurance sector which contracted 1.8% in 2010.

Slovenian insurer Adriatic Slovenica Zavarovalna Druzba ranked third with 261.4 million euro premium income, slightly up from 260.8 million euro in 2009. Slovenia’s Zavarovalnica Maribor came in fourth with 259.6 million euro in gross premiums in 2010, down from 266 million euro. Fifth–placed was Romanian insurer Astra with 252.8 million euro premium income last year, up by 33.82%. Astra was followed by Slovenia’s Vzajemna Zdravstvena Zavarovalnica. It had 240.3 million euro gross premium income in 2010, down from 248.3 million euro.

Three Romanian insurers – Allianz–Tiriac Asigurari, Ominiasig Vienna Insurance Group and Groupama Asigurari, filled in spots seven through nine, respectively.Allianz–Tiriac Asigurari posted a 20.65% fall in premium income in 2010 to 238.1 million euro. Omniasig Vienna Insurance Group recorded 213.8 million euro in gross written premiums, down by 17.79% compared to 2009. Groupama Asigurari boosted its gross written premiums to 181.9 million euro from 127 million euro in 2009.

The 10th place was occupied by Serbia’s Dunav Osiguranje with 138.9 million euro premium income, down from 153 million euro in 2009. The state–owned insurer is among the top five insurers in Serbia.

Romania leads the SEE TOP 100 Insurers ranking for 2010 in terms of number of entrants with 22 companies, followed by Bulgaria with 19 and Croatia with 18.
Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are represented by 10 companies each.

Serbia has 11 entrants. Macedonia is represented by five insurance companies – Vardar Skopije, Sava Tabak, QBE Macedonia, Eurolink Insurance and Osiguritelna Polisa. Two Montenegrin insurers, Lovcen Osiguranje and Sava Montenegro, and two Moldovan, Moldasig and Asito, also qualified for the ranking. Albania participated with one insurer, SIGAL UNIQA Group Austria.

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