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Now Health International Boosts European Team

International health insurance provider Now Health International is pleased to announce that two key members of staff will be joining the team on 1 May - Mandy Dicksee as Operations Manager and Colin Noden as Business Development Manager.  Both will be based at the UK headquarters in Camberley, Surrey.

Mandy will focus on managing the service delivery for both individuals and corporates.  She has over 20 years’ experience in international health insurance and has an outstanding reputation for delivering first class service to both customers and intermediaries.

Colin will continue to develop existing relationships with the intermediary market throughout Europe.  With over 10 years’ experience working within domestic and international health insurance, Colin has exceptional knowledge and experience of this market.

Alex Dalton, Managing Director, Europe commented “The business has experienced significant growth during the last 12 months so we are delighted to have two high calibre individuals to join us at such an exciting time.  Both bring a wealth of experience with them and I am confident they will make a positive impact on the future of our business going forward.” 

For more information on Now Health International, please visit www.now-health.com

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Reports 2014 Results

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and its family of companies (Blue Cross) today announced audited financial results for 2014. Blue Cross closed out the year with net income of $61.5 million, reflecting positive investment portfolio performance that offset slight operational losses. The organization reported a net operating loss of $8.2 million on full-year revenues of $10.1 billion, for a negative operating margin of one-tenth of one percent (0.1%).

Blue Cross reported more than $9.1 billion paid in medical claims for the year, representing 90 cents of every premium dollar collected going directly to cover health care costs. Additionally, Blue Cross paid more than $205 million in taxes, assessments and surcharges for the year. Overall year-end 2014 enrollment of 2.6 million members represents a slight decrease from year-end 2013.

“Our operating performance for 2014 was favorable to projections, amounting to a near break-even year for the organization,” said Michael Guyette, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “We knew 2014 would be a challenging year, as the market continued to go through significant transition related to health reform. We continue to engage with multiple stakeholders in order to explore ways of bringing additional cost and coverage stability for both the short- and long-term.”

During 2014, Blue Cross celebrated several successes in communities across the state. Among them:

  •     Collaborated with Allina, Entira, Minnesota Community Health Network (MCHN), Northern Health Alliance and Sanford Health in support of innovations that promote advancements in health care affordability and quality.
  •     Opened the company’s first health insurance retail store, where Minnesotans can receive health plan information, service and claims support.
  •     Raised more than $1 million in employee donations through the annual Community Giving Campaign to benefit more than 700 nonprofits statewide.
  •      Supported efforts of Minnesota communities to enhance access to health coverage and improve health, including:

o    Southern Prairie Community Care, an Accountable Community for Health, focused on improving the health of residents of 12 southwestern Minnesota counties.
o    Access to coverage grants, helping low-income Minnesotans enroll in insurance.
o    Act on Alzheimer’s, helping foster dementia-friendly communities.
o    Increasing access to various dental care programs in Mankato, Bemidji, Duluth and Rochester.

Audited results include the consolidated financial statements for businesses operating under Aware Integrated Inc. (AII), a non-profit corporation and parent organization. AII serves as the holding company for all affiliates and subsidiaries, including the following regulated businesses associated with Blue Cross:

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota — A nonprofit health insurance company and independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Blue Plus — A nonprofit health maintenance organization (HMO) that offers health plans and contracted provider networks throughout Minnesota to individuals and local, state and national groups.

SelectAccount — A third-party administrator of medical spending accounts included in consumer-directed health plans throughout the country.

Blue Cross provides all information, reports and audited details as required by the State of Minnesota for both commercial and public program products. Detailed financial statements for the organization’s regulated businesses are filed with the Minnesota Department of Commerce. A consolidated earnings statement for 2014 results is available at https://www.bluecrossmn.com/2014Results.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

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APRIL: 2014 Annual Results In Line, A Year Of Resilience And Investment

APRIL posted 2014 consolidated sales of €766.3m, down 1.6% from 2013 based on reported data and down slightly (0.8%) like for like. Health & Personal Protection was down 0.9% based on reported data and down 1.0% like for like. The Property & Casualty division, mainly hit by foreign currency fluctuations, was down 3.6% based on reported data and down 1.4% like for like.

As a result of the significant investment required to prepare for the future and non-recurring expenses arising from the consolidation and streamlining of our businesses, current EBIT fell 12.1% to €76.1m compared to 2013, as announced in our January press releases.

APRIL maintained a strong current EBIT margin of 9.9%, with Health & Personal Protection holding up particularly well and a slight decline in Property & Casualty, mainly due to non-recurring items.

Group non-current expenses for the year came to €6.8m and included in particular the cost of rescinding a business as general agent in La Reunion (€4.8m) and the net costs of closing our operations in Argentina, Chile, Hungary and Belarus. As a result of these events, the Group posted an EBIT of €69.3m, down 18.4% from 2013.

After a €30.5m corporate income tax charge, consolidated net income (Group share) amounted to€36.6m.

Health & Personal Protection

The Health & Personal Protection division reported a 0.9% decline in sales resulting from a 2.6% fall in brokerage commissions, partially offset by a 2.0% rise in premiums.

The decrease in brokerage commissions is due to the Company's decision to stop capturing loss-making individual employee health insurance policies under the National Interbranch Agreement (ANI). This decline was mitigated by the strong performance of the health insurance business in the senior and self-employed market segments and the growth in mortgage and group insurance, supported by solid fundamentals and Group investment. The increase in insurance premiums was driven by the expansion of the individual, group and expatriate health and personal protection portfolios.

Despite the initial impact of ANI, estimated at €3.7m, and the cost of around €3.8m for setting up the new IT systems, the division posted a stable current EBIT margin of 17.7%, due in part to improvements in the risk-carrying business and the Group's operations in Switzerland and the UK.

Property & Casualty

In Property & Casualty, the 2.1% increase in premiums was driven by new partnerships as well as the revival of affinity member operations within the framework of a significantly reinsured model in line with Group policy.

The 3.5% like-for-like fall in commissions was due to the decline in revenues from the distribution network and the travel insurance and assistance business, affected by challenging economic conditions particularly in South America and Europe. This decline was partly offset by wholesale brokerage operations which delivered strong sales but were affected by increasing IT costs.

Moreover, non-recurring expenses, including the costs of restructuring and consolidating the business models of some of the foreign subsidiaries and cost related to the streamlining of our French operations, have pushed current EBIT into a loss.

Non-current expenses, almost exclusively borne by the Property & Casualty division, led it to record an EBIT loss of €9.9m. These expenses include the impact of the withdrawal of some countries as part of the streamlining of our mobility and assistance solutions (for example, Argentina and Chile are now being managed by our US operations).

Financial position

APRIL's balance sheet at 31 December 2014 reflects the Group's strong business model and prudent financial management: consolidated shareholders' equity (Group share) stood at €578.9m, up €28.6m, while financial debt remained immaterial at €3.7m and net cash,adjusted for deposit accounts held in relation to the Company's cash management policy, increased by €8.1m to €198.6m. 

Dividend

In accordance with our declared policy of guaranteeing a 25% dividend payout ratio supplemented by the remaining cash surplus after coverage of capital expenditure and the previous year’s dividend, a dividend of €0.42 per share for 2014, corresponding to a total dividend payout of €17.2m, will be proposed at the Annual General Meeting.

This is equivalent to a dividend yield of 3.7% over the average share price since 1 January, exceeding analysts’ expectations.

Outlook

The Group starts 2015 with a strong financial position.

APRIL will pursue its strategy of being a multi-specialist operating in France and abroad by focusing on four main goals:

-       To transform new regulatory requirements into opportunities, the full potential of which will not materialise before 2016,

-       To develop and accelerate its multi-channel distribution strategy

-       To improve profitability and boost growth of international operations

-       To increase its operational efficiency

In order to achieve these goals, APRIL will capitalise on its core strengths: its capacity for segmentation, reputed quality of service and customer-centric approach, driven by a strengthened management team.

Within an overall environment that will remain demanding, 2015 will be a year of continued investment for the Group, enabling it to consolidate its business model and market positioning and ultimately return to growth.

At this early stage in the year, Group management expects current EBIT to stay relatively flat in 2015.

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State Bank And Trust Company Creates Insurance Division With Acquisition

State Bank and Trust Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of State Bank Financial Corporation (Nasdaq:STBZ), announced that it has launched an insurance division to offer State Bank customers a full range of personal and commercial insurance products. State Bank enters the insurance business through the acquisition of substantially all of the assets of Boyett Agency, LLC, a privately owned, 61-year-old independent insurance agency based in Dalton, Georgia. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

"This acquisition delivers more than 40 top-rated carrier relationships to State Bank, providing the bank a solid opportunity to build deeper client relationships and continue to diversify the bank's income stream," said State Bank and Trust CEO Tom Wiley. "There is a natural synergy with our growing homebuilder finance and mortgage lending groups, where the bank will be equipped to offer a full suite of insurance products with greater convenience, value and service."

The addition of Boyett Agency's assets is not expected to have a material impact on State Bank's noninterest income in the near future.

"We look forward to leveraging the agency's carrier relationships by providing our significant customer base a full line of insurance solutions," Wiley added.

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HCC Insurance Holdings Reports Record Earnings For 2014

HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:HCC) released results for the fourth quarter and full year of 2014. Net earnings were $113.0 million, or $1.16 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to $115.0 million, or $1.14 per diluted share, in the same quarter of 2013. Net earnings were $458.3 million, or $4.61 per diluted share, in 2014, versus $407.2 million, or $4.04 per diluted share, in 2013.

The Company's combined ratio was 81.9% for the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to 81.2% for the same quarter of 2013. The combined ratio was 82.1% for 2014, versus 83.4% for 2013. The net paid loss ratio was 58.7% for 2014, compared to 56.5% for 2013. HCC had net favorable loss development of $25.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to $34.1 million in the same quarter of 2013, and $56.4 million for the full year of 2014, versus $73.7 million in the same period of 2013. The Company's 2014 accident year net loss ratio was 57.8% and its 2014 accident year combined ratio was 84.4%. These ratios include 1.1 percentage points for catastrophes.

"The diversity of our businesses and the strength of our underwriting operations combined to generate the third consecutive year of record earnings for our shareholders. We continue to grow profitably and expect to find new opportunities for growth in the coming year as merger and acquisition activity heats up. We remain nimble, opportunistic and well-positioned for another strong year in 2015," said Christopher J.B. Williams, HCC's Chief Executive Officer.

The 2014 results included accident year pretax net catastrophe losses of $12.1 million and $26.4 million in the fourth quarter and full year, respectively, which reduced net earnings by $0.08 and $0.18 per share in the respective periods. The 2013 results included pretax net catastrophe losses of $7.5 million and $52.0 million in the fourth quarter and full year, respectively, which reduced net earnings by $0.05 and $0.34 per share in the respective periods. Gross written premium increased 3% to $691.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to $671.7 million in the same quarter of 2013.

Net written premium increased 5% to $550.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, versus $525.4 million in the same quarter of 2013. Net earned premium increased 7% to $601.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to $560.0 million in the same quarter of 2013. For the full year of 2014, compared to 2013, gross written premium increased 4% to $3.0 billion; net written premium increased 5% to $2.4 billion; and net earned premium increased 4% to $2.3 billion.

Investment income was $54.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to $54.5 million in the same quarter of 2013, and increased to $221.6 million in the full year of 2014, versus $220.2 million in the same period of 2013.

As of December 31, 2014, HCC's fixed maturity securities portfolio had an average rating of AA, a duration of 4.7 years and an average long-term tax equivalent yield of 4.3%. HCC generated cash flow from operations of $478.6 million in 2014, compared to $262.7 million in 2013.

The Company's cash flow was decreased by U.S. Surety collateral repayments of $20.3 million in 2014 and $121.7 million in 2013. At December 31, 2014, the Company had $360.3 million of cash and short-term investments and $294.1 million of available capacity under its $825.0 million revolving loan facility.

The Company purchased 4.7 million shares of its common stock during 2014 for $224.7 million at an average cost of $47.70 per share. As of December 31, 2014, total assets were $10.7 billion, shareholders' equity was $3.9 billion and the Company's debt to total capital ratio was 17.4%. For further information about HCC's 2014 fourth quarter earnings results, see the supplemental financial schedules that are available in the Investor Relations section of the Company's website at http://ir.hcc.com.

For more information about HCC, please visit http://www.hcc.com

 

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Pacific Prime Singapore Announce Medical Insurance Partnership With AXA

Pacific Prime Singapore is now offering AXA’s wide range of products after a new partnership with the industry leader.

Pacific Prime Singapore has confirmed that the insurance intermediary is now able to offer AXA’s wide range of products. The partnership is reportedly focusing on local and regional medical insurance in Singapore, alongside countries in the Southeast Asia region.

Pacific Prime, through AXA, are offering a new range insurance solutions in Singapore, including Home insurance, Motor insurance, Business insurance as well as Travel insurance. They can also now offer Direct-Billing with over 300 Doctors and all major hospitals in the city, and have recently launched an E-portal designed to facilitate the insurance process with regards to claims services for local clients.

Products now within reach include the ‘International Exclusive’ Policy, featuring cover for pre-existing conditions at no extra cost, and ‘SmartCare Optimum’ as well as ‘SmartCare Executive’ plans which are more tailored for the local market in Singapore. A simplified corporate insurance plan, ‘SME Made Easy’, is a flexible solution for small companies that enables Pacific Prime to provide easy access to hospitalisation, out-patient treatment, and dental cover. ‘Major Medical’ and ‘Personal Accident’ are additional options on these SME plans aswell.

The Singapore branch of the international insurance agent is thrilled to be working with an industry leader that retains over 160,000 employees worldwide serving customers in 56 countries, AXA has been InterBrand’s number one global insurance brand for the past 5 years, and ranked at Number 1 in Health insurance in 2013.

Pacific Prime is looking to strengthen this partnership with AXA into 2015, aiming at providing more positive developments on health insurance plans and a direct-settlement network for out-patient consultations in Singapore.

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AIG Agrees To Acquire Ireland’s Second Largest Health Insurance Provider

American International Group, Inc. today announced that it has agreed to acquire Laya Healthcare, Ireland’s second largest health insurance provider. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2015, subject to regulatory approvals.

Operating in Ireland since 1997, Laya Healthcare has nearly 500,000 customers. It employs 450 people, principally in Cork, and serves more than 23% of the Irish private health market. The company also offers life, dental, and travel insurance, as well as health and wellness coverage.

Laya Healthcare will become part of AIG’s Health business, which is focused on offering creative solutions to AIG’s customers and partners in a rapidly changing global healthcare environment. Expansion of the Health business is critical to AIG’s Consumer Insurance strategy of meeting the broad insurance needs of consumers in markets around the globe.

“Laya Healthcare’s experienced management team and its success focusing on consumers in the healthcare space strengthen our commitment to selectively expanding healthcare solutions,” said Kevin Hogan, AIG’s Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Insurance. “So much of what we are devoted to in Consumer Insurance centers on meeting the needs of our customers in the markets we serve, and that includes our innovative health coverage offerings.”

The Laya Healthcare acquisition will add to the deep technical and product experience in health insurance that AIG has built over many years through successful product offerings such as supplemental health and stop loss/medical excess insurance.

Jay Sheehy, Global Head of AIG’s Health business, said, “The acquisition of Laya Healthcare is an opportunity to work with business leaders who know how to achieve value and growth in a highly regulated healthcare market. Building on Laya Healthcare’s success serving customers in Ireland is an important step in expanding AIG’s Health and Consumer strategies.”

AIG has been a part of Ireland’s business community for 40 years. It provides auto, home, personal accident, and travel insurance to the Irish market, as well as commercial insurance products. AIG also has a significant IT and asset management presence in the country, supporting its European and global operations.

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Mexico Travel Warning: Hurricane Odile - British Nationals Advised To Leave Via Aeropuerto Internacional De Los Cabos International Airport (SJD)

Hurricane Odile has affected parts of Baja California and Baja California Sur. British Nationals in the affected area are advised to leave via Aeropuerto Internacional de Los Cabos International airport (SJD).

Please go with the expectation of a potentially long wait; the airport is crowded. We recommend travelling with basic provisions of food and water where possible. There are reports of looting and gang violence on the streets of downtown San José del Cabo. Exercise caution when transiting to the airport. Monitor local media and follow the guidance of local authorities.

363,142 British nationals visited Mexico in 2012. Most visits are trouble-free.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

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Huichih Ko Joins Willis Asia As Chairman

Willis Group Holdings plc, has appointed Huichih Ko as Chairman of Willis Asia. Mr. Ko will play a leading role in defining Willis Asia's strategic direction and driving client engagement and growth across the region. He starts his new role today and will initially be based in the Singapore HQ of Willis Asia, which employs around 890 associates in 36 offices.

He joins from Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC), where he served as MMC Country Corporate Officer for Taiwan. He has over 30 years' industry experience and has held a number of senior posts at Marsh, including Deputy Chairman, Greater China Region; and Managing Director and Chairman, Marsh Taiwan.

Tim Wright, CEO of Willis International, said, "Willis is going from strength to strength in Asia, and the addition of such a senior talent will be a further boost to our capabilities and ambitions. Huichih is a very experienced and respected industry leader who is well known across the region. He will play a vital role in growing and connecting our business both in Asia and globally."

Adam Garrard, CEO of Willis Asia, said, "I have known Huichih for many years and he has worked with an impressive and diverse range of clients. We are delighted to have attracted Huichih to Willis and his appointment is a visible endorsement of our values and strategy. Huichih will partner with me and the rest of the Willis Asia team to assist us in driving the strategy and growth plans in the region. I can think of no one more qualified for this role. He is one of the best insurance practitioners in Asia."

Huichih Ko said, "I am deeply impressed by Willis's vision and commitment to invest across Asia in order to tap into some exciting, high-potential markets. I'm pleased to have the opportunity to work with the many talents in Willis to develop innovative solutions for clients and markets. Asian insurance markets have come a long way - many are mature and ready to diversify their books - and I look forward to helping our global clients explore that new capacity."

Ko started his insurance brokerage career in New York with Fred S James in 1981. He was assigned to Taiwan in 1983 and subsequently became President of James International Taiwan. Between 1987 and 1998 he served as CEO of Sedgwick Taiwan. Following the acquisition of Sedgwick by Marsh, Ko was appointed as Regional Director North Asia, Marsh Resolution.

In 2000 he became Managing Director and chairman of Marsh Taiwan and in 2010 he was promoted to Deputy Chairman, Marsh Greater China Region.

In 2013 he was appointed as MMC Country Corporate Officer for Taiwan. Ko holds a bachelor's degree in Shipping Management and a Master of Science in Transportation.

He has also taught marine insurance and shipping management courses in universities in Taiwan.

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Global Reinsurer Capital Reaches New Peak Of USD570 Billion At June 30, 2014

Aon Benfield launches the latest edition of its Aon Benfield Aggregate (ABA) report, which analyzes the financial results of the world's leading reinsurers in the first half of 2014.

Aon Benfield Analytics estimates that global reinsurer capital reached a record level of USD570 billion at June 30, 2014, an increase of 6% (USD30 billion) relative to December 31, 2013.

This calculation is a broad measure of capital available for insurers to trade risk with and includes both traditional and non-traditional forms of reinsurance capital. The firm's latest study found that capital reported by the ABA group of 31 leading reinsurers increased by 4% (USD14 billion) to USD351 billion (62% of global reinsurer capital), driven primarily by USD18.6 billion of net income and USD9.4 billion of unrealized capital gains. The main offset was USD14.3 billion of dividends and share buybacks.

Further key findings relating to the 29 publicly-listed holding companies in the ABA* include:

  • Gross property and casualty (P&C) premiums rose by 4% to USD109 billion, with growth split evenly between insurance and reinsurance business.
  • The combined ratio rose by 0.4 percentage points to 90.3%, with P&C underwriting profit unchanged at USD7.9 billion.
  • Catastrophe losses declined relative to the prior year and were well below the long-term average.
  • Support from the favorable development of prior year reserves declined by 5% to USD2.8 billion.
  • Return on equity stood at 12.2% in the first half of 2014, the highest level since 2009.
  • Net catastrophe exposures are reducing as risk transfer to the capital markets increases via sidecars, insurance-linked securities and more cost effective retrocession cover.

Mike Van Slooten, Head of Aon Benfield's International Market Analysis team, said, "The influx of alternative capital is lowering risk transfer costs for both insurers and reinsurers, creating a win-win situation that should drive market expansion in the medium-term. Aon Benfield has made major advances in its analysis of reinsurers' financial performance in recent years, in response to growing insurer demand for strategic insight into longer-term industry trends. We are closely monitoring developments in what is a very dynamic environment. As such, peer studies such as the ABA report, which assess comparative performance on a timely basis, are becoming increasingly relevant."

* ABA reports are produced on a half-yearly basis and cover the reported results of 31 major reinsurers worldwide, with the aim of identifying the latest trends in the P&C reinsurance marketplace. The study comprises 29 publicly-listed holding companies ('the listed ABA') and two US-domiciled subsidiaries of Berkshire Hathaway, namely National Indemnity Company (NICO) and General Reinsurance Corporation (Gen Re). NICO entered into a significant intra-group reinsurance transaction with GEICO Group effective January 1, 2014, which has had a material impact on its reported results. To provide a more meaningful picture of the sector's underlying performance, many of the charts and ratios now focus on the listed ABA.

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