Slovenian insurance giants fend off growing competition to top SEE GWP rankin

By Mario Tanev

Southeast Europe’s biggest insurers boasted another year of record-high gross written premiums (GWP), as the region bucked the global economic slowdown in 2018. The countries’ robust macroeconomic performance and increased consumption offset pressure stemming from tougher competition, stricter regulatory requirements and low interest rates. Each of the countries in the ranking saw the combined GWP of its representatives grow in 2018, with the two heavyweights – Slovenia and Romania, leading the way once again.

The top three insurers kept their places for a third straight year, improving both their GWP and net profit. In terms of GWP growth, Slovenia’s Zavarovalnica Sava outpaced its local rival Zavarovalnica Triglav for a third year running, but the difference in GWP volume between the two remained significant.

Zavarovalnica Triglav’s GWP grew by 6.15% to 660.2 million euro, equal to over 8% of the combined GWP of the top 100 insurers in the region.

Croatia Osiguranje remained in third place, bagging a hefty 13.3% rise in GWP in 2018.

The Top 100 SEE insurers boasted combined GWP of over 8.1 billion euro in 2018, beating the previous high of 7.5 billion euro set by the members of last year’s edition.

The Slovenian members of this year’s ranking outshined their regional peers by booking combined GWP of some 2.2 billion euro, and were yet again closely trailed by their Romanian peers, which generated GWP of 2.1 billion euro. The Slovenian insurers present in this year’s edition of the ranking posted a 6% rise in 2018 GWP compared to their results in 2017, while Romanian members saw a 4.1% increase.

The other two countries in the ranking that crossed the 1 billion euro threshold were Croatia and Bulgaria, with GWP of 1.3 billion euro and 1.2 billion euro, respectively.

However, in terms of the number of members in the ranking, Bulgaria ranked first with 19 companies, demonstrating the strong competition on the local market. Romania posted 18 members in this year’s ranking, followed by Croatia and Slovenia with 14 each.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia had with the highest number of new entrants in this year’s ranking – two each. The ranking also saw one new entrant from each of Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. The highest ranked new entrant was Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Central Osiguranje, which occupied 74th place after posting the fifth sharpest growth of GWP among the members of this year’s ranking – of 44.19%. Seven new insurers made it into the ranking this year, as compared to five a year earlier. No insurer from Kosovo or Moldova managed to cross the entry threshold.

A total of 41 members of this year’s ranking saw a double-digit percentage rise in their GWP. Bulgaria’s Bul Ins led the way with a 52.89% increase to 97.8 million euro, propelling the company ten places higher to 26th spot. Slovenia’s Modra Zavarovalnica followed with a 47.72% rise to 43.2 million euro, while another new entrant – Grawe Romania Asigurare – came in third with a 46.76% increase.

Despite the robust growth in premiums across the region, the members of this year’s ranking saw their combined net profit decline, much like their peers in the 2018 edition of the ranking. The top 100 insurers in the region generated a combined profit of just over 398 million euro in 2018, after the same 100 companies pocketed 418 million euro the year before.

However, it must be noted that the lower profit does not pertain to the larger part of the SEE region. The overall profit decrease mainly stems from Romanian members of the ranking, which erased some 82 million euro of their profits in 2018, as compared to 2017. The only other countries to see the combined net profit of their members in the ranking fall were Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia, which posted slim decreases of 1.3 million euro and 1.8 million euro, respectively.

The profit decrease in Romania can largely be attributed to the government’s decision to cap premiums on motor insurance. In addition, Romania’s National Union of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies decided in December to slap fines exceeding 50 million euro in total on nine insurers for price fixing.