No quick recovery for SEE insurers in 2011

by Emiliya Atanasova

Unfortunately, a rebound failed to materialise in 2011 as the European economy continued to struggle under the added weight of a spreading sovereign debt crisis. That is not to say all SEE insurers had a disappointing 2011. On the contrary, many of the top 100 sector players in the region increased significantly their profits or reversed prior-year losses. Still, 2011 as a whole proved yet another year of sliding gross written premiums (GWP) and while the decline was much less pronounced compared to the drop between 2009 and 2010, it showed that the recovery would be anything but swift and easy.

The region’s top 100 insurers exited 2011 with a combined 6.053 billion euro in GWP compared to 6.197 billion in 2010. The best performer in terms of GWP growth was Romania’s City Insurance SA, whose GWP shot up by 216.64% to 46.3 million euro. This propelled the company to number 39 in the rankings from 78 the year before. Romania is also home to the company that did worst on that count. Chartis Romania SA suffered a 33.92% drop in GWP, slipping from number 71 in the top 100 chart to number 90. Overall, 44 companies ended 2011 with smaller figures under their GWP account headings.

A look at the top five SEE insurers of 2011 is likely to trigger a sense of deja-vu. All five companies held on to the positions secured in 2010 and all but one achieved substantial profit growth. Hats off to Slovenia’s Zavarovalnica Triglav, which may be operating in the region’s smallest country but runs way ahead of the pack in terms of GWP and profit. The company is the undisputed leader in the rankings for the third year in a row despite the 3.42% slide in GWP to 696.7 million euro. This is still head and shoulders above the result achieved by number two, Croatia Osiguranje, which wrapped up 2011 with GWP of 370.3 million euro, down 3.68%. Zavarovalnica Triglav’s net profit jumped to 43.8 million euro from 32.1 million euro in 2010, while Croatia Osiguranje’s nearly doubled, surging from 5.9 million euro to 10.4 million euro.

Third-ranked Adriatic Slovenica of Slovenia managed a 1.62% increase in GWP to 265.6 million euro and lifted its net profit to 17.7 million euro from 10.5 million euro. Zavarovalnica Maribor, also of Slovenia, retained its fourth place with 2011 GWP of 263.2 million euro, a rise of 1.40%. The company’s net profit remained flat at 10.6 million euro. Astra SA of Romania held on to its fifth position although its GWP fell by 6.89% to 233.5 million euro. In terms of net profit, however, Astra had an excellent year as the figure ballooned from 5.9 million euro in 2010 to 18.8 million.

Positions six to nine were occupied by familiar names albeit in a slightly different arrangement. Romanian Allianz – Tiriac Asigurari SA landed at number six after finishing seventh in 2010. Its domestic rivals Omniasig Vienna Insurance Group SA (which merged into BCR Asigurari Vienna Insurance Group SA in 2012) and Groupama Asigurari SA also climbed one rung of the ladder to finish at numbers seven and eight respectively. Rounding off the top 10 was Serbia’s Dunav Osiguranje AD, which moved up from number ten to number nine. Asigurarea Romaneasca – Asirom Vienna Insurance Group SA was the new kid on the top 10 block, climbing from number 14 a year earlier.

The top 100 club welcomed five new members in 2011, three of which are representatives of Bulgaria. Bul Ins AD, Alico Bulgaria Life Insurance Company EAD (Metlife) and UBB-Alico Life Insurance Company AD (UBB Metlife) finished the race in the 27th, 95th and 96th place respectively. Slovenia’s Merkur Zavarovalnica landed at 37 and Velebit Osiguranje of Croatia grabbed onto number 100.

Thanks to its new entrants, Bulgaria overtook Romania as the country with the largest number of representatives in the 2011 SEE TOP 100 league table of insurers. The list featured 21 Bulgarian names versus 19 in 2010 and Romania’s contribution slipped from 22 to 20 companies. Croatia was represented by 19 companies compared to 18 previously, while Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had 11 and 10 companies featured respectively, the same numbers as in the 2010 rankings. The number of Slovenian representatives dipped from ten to nine, Macedonia held steady with five entrants and so did Montenegro and Moldova with two each. Albania’s only representative was Sigal UNIQA Group Austria, which climbed to number 60 from 75 in 2010.