Initial Estimates of Claims from Japan Quake

Though it is far too early to pin down an exact number for the amount of money the Japan quake will cost insurers, initial estimates have started to surface for some of the hardest hit insurers and reinsurers.

Swiss Re, the world’s second-biggest reinsurer, has estimated it will face claims of about $1.2 billion from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The figure is low because Japan’s government insures residential properties covered by non-life companies against earthquake and tsunami damage and this protection is not reinsured internationally, the Zurich-based company said in an e-mailed statement today. The preliminary claims figure is net of retrocession and before tax, Swiss Re said.

Eqecat, a catastrophe modeling firm, has stated that insurers and reinsurers will likely have losses of $12 billion to $25 billion. However, AIR Wolrdwide has estimated losses of up to $35 billion from the quake alone.

AIG has recently reported that it will record $1 billion in claims for the first quarter, most of which can be attributed to the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Zurich-based ACE Ltd., a major player in the insurance and reinsurance market, said its initial loss estimates are $200 million to $250 million.

Though Lloyd’s of London has not officially released an estimate, an anonymous market source has said “$3 billion in losses for the Lloyd’s market as a whole sounds plausible.”

QBE Insurance Group Ltd. of Australia has said it estimates $125 million in claims from the quake and tsunami.

Below is a video of the always-entertaining Joe Plumeri speaking on the topic of Japan’s insured losses.

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The Insurance Industry and Climate Change

This morning, AIR Worldwide, in collaboration with the the U.K. Met Office and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), released their findings on the financial implications of climate change to the insurance industry.

The report, “Financial Risks of Climate Change,” focuses on insured risks in both the U.K and China from dominant natural hazards in those areas, including inland flooding, winter windstorms and typhoons.

Results from the study include:

  • The average annual insured inland flood losses in Great Britain could rise by 14 percent assuming a global temperature rise of 4°C (39 degrees Fahrenheit). Within Great Britain, the results vary by region (increases range from less than 10 percent to nearly 30 percent).
  • The insured inland flood loss in Great Britain occurring on average once every 100 years could rise by 30 percent. The insured inland flood loss occurring on average once every 200 years could rise by 32 percent. In both cases, the estimates assume a global temperature rise of 4°C.
  • The average annual insured losses from typhoons affecting China could increase by 32 percent; the 100-year loss could increase by 9 percent, and the 200-year loss could increase by 17 percent. In all cases, the estimates assume a global temperature rise of 4°C.The average annual insured inland flood losses in Great Britain could rise by 14 percent assuming a global temperature rise of 4°C. Within Great Britain, the results vary by region (increases range from less than 10 percent to nearly 30 percent).

“The earth’s climate system is constantly changing,” said Dr. Peter Dailey, assistant vice president and director of atmospheric science at AIR Worldwide. “Not only does a change to any component of the system influence the risk from natural catastrophes, but the interactions between components bring about an inherent uncertainty surrounding how climate will evolve in the future. By conditioning our models on future climate scenarios developed by leading climate researchers at the Met Office, the study we have conducted on behalf of the ABI advances our understanding of the relationship between these complex climate relationships and insured risk.”

The research brings together unique climate model projections with state-of-the-art catastrophe models. And as we’ve recently seen with Typhoon Ketsana, which demolished parts of China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos and killed almost 700 and caused more than $1 billion in damage — research in this area is greatly needed. Nothing can stop Mother Nature, but cat models can help prepare for her wrath.