Sandy Insured Loss Hits $22B

Zacks

Disaster analysis companies have pegged insured loss from the recent Hurricane Sandy to reach over $20 billion. This indicates skewed results for the insurance companies in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Accordingly, the risk modeling company AIR Worldwide has raised its insured loss estimate from the "superstorm" in the range of $16–22 billion, way higher than the prior guidance of $7–15 billion.

Another disaster analysis firm – Eqecat – fixed its insured loss projection at $20 billion, while it forecasts $50 billion in economic losses from the same catastrophe. One more firm – RMS – expects insured losses from Sandy to hit $25 billion. All the agencies believe that Sandy is the most damaging superstorm after Hurricane Katrina and Ike.

Consequently, some insurers such as Allstate Corp. (ALL), The Travelers Companies (TRV) and PartnerRe Ltd. (PRE) have notified that the catastrophe losses from Sandy are higher than their absorbing capacity. Recently, Allstate stated that it expects pre-tax catastrophe losses of over $150 million for October 2012. The majority of these losses are attributable to superstorm Sandy that hit the Northeast, where Allstate owns about 10.7% of the market share.

Over the past few years, catastrophe losses have not only been augmenting the claims payments of the insurers but also has been nibbling into the earnings of the companies, thereby distorting the operational dynamics for quite some time post the weather-related events. Several insurers such as Hartford Financial Services Inc. (HIG), Allstate, PartnerRe and The Travelers saw most or all of their earnings being washed away after incurring severe catastrophe losses in 2011.

Although catastrophe losses moderated in the first nine months of 2012 and helped the bottom line regain stability, Sandy is expected to erode insurers’ earnings once again. Recently, The Chubb Corp. (CB) deferred its share buyback program due to the inability to estimate the extent of loss related to the recent superstorm. More insurers are expected to release hefty catastrophe losses soon.

Based on the pros and cons, all the abovementioned insurance companies carry a Zacks Rank #3, which implies a short-term Hold rating. These stocks indicate no clear directional pressure in the near term.

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