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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.


Aetna International Appoints European Sales Manager To Drive Expansion

Aetna International, the leading international private medical insurance provider, has added to the company’s European broker team by hiring Beatriz Biosca as their European sales manager.

Biosca is Spanish by birth, grew up in Luxembourg and Brussels and is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Italian. After training as a clinical physiologist, she worked at Globality Health and Mercer Health management consulting in a variety of international claims, analysis and European account management roles.

“We were keen to add to our European team and Beatriz was the perfect combination of knowledge and experience,” said Aetna’s global head of distribution, Nic Brown. “Beatriz will be building on Aetna’s existing relationships with brokers in Europe and developing new partnerships throughout the region.”


July Passenger Travel Shows Strong Growth

Global passenger traffic results for July 2014 show demand growth of 5.3% (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) over the previous July. Capacity expanded exactly in tandem with demand (5.3%), resulting in a global load factor of 82.3%, unchanged from last year.

“July was another strong month of growth for air travel. People are connecting by air in ever greater numbers. That’s true across all regions. Despite the various economic challenges, the outlook for passenger travel remains broadly positive. The overall sluggishness at the beginning of the year appears to be behind us with growth in China and other emerging economies offsetting recent deterioration in the Eurozone,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

International Passenger Markets

July international passenger demand rose by 5.5% compared to the same month in 2013. This was outstripped by a capacity expansion of 6.2% which resulted in a slight weakening of the load factor to 81.9% (down 0.5 percentage points from the year-ago period, but still at a very high level).

European carriers reported growth of 5.3% in July compared to a year ago. Capacity expanded slightly more aggressively at 5.6%, but the region still reported a very high load factor of 85.1%. While this is a robust performance, latest indicators show a weakening in key European economies such as Germany reflecting the impact of sanctions associated with the deepening Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Asia Pacific airlines are benefitting from an improved economic environment. Demand growth was slightly above the global average at 5.6% which lagged a capacity increase of 6.8%. Load factor fell 0.9 percentage points to 78.9%. The biggest factor affecting demand developments is the response of the Chinese economy to stimulus measures which saw year-on-year GDP growth reach 7.5% in July.

North American airlines saw international demand grow by 2.9%--the slowest of all regions. Capacity expansion was nearly double that at 5.6%; nonetheless the load factor stood at 85.1%. Overall business conditions are the strongest since mid-2010, which bodes well for the region’s carriers.

Airlines in the Middle East recorded the strongest growth at 9.2%. This was ahead of a capacity expansion of 8.2%. Load factor rose 0.7 percentage points to 78.0%. The carriers are benefitting from the strength of regional economies and solid growth in business-related premium travel.

Latin American carriers reported growth of 6.7%, in line with a 6.6% capacity increase. Load factors stood at 82.5%. Robust economic performance in Colombia, Peru and Chile is being offset by weakness in Brazil. Furthermore, regional trade volumes are not expanding, the impact of which has been a dialing down of travel demand from the 8% growth range experienced in 2013.

African airlines reported growth of 4.9%, reversing the year-on-year contraction experienced in June. With capacity rising 4.5%, load factor improved slightly to 70.2%. The biggest factor impacting international traffic demand in July was the slowdown of the South African economy.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa intensified towards the end of July, the impact of which will likely be seen in August.

Domestic Passenger Markets

Demand on domestic routes rose by 4.9% in July over the previous year, ahead of a 3.5% capacity increase, pushing load factor up 1.1 percentage points to 83.0%.

The strongest growth was recorded in China (8.8%) and Russia (9.9%). Russian airlines saw the strongest growth rate among major domestic markets at 9.9%. While the Russia-Ukraine crisis has seen a slowdown in the Russian economy, domestic demand grew as a result of a significant reduction in fares.

India’s domestic market increased by a solid 6.0% in July over the previous year. This could be an early sign of the success of the new government’s business-friendly stance. However, the government’s July budget announcement showed little spending stimulus which could keep India’s growth trend below the pace of other emerging markets.

The Bottom Line

“Airlines reported growth in July, which is a positive story for the global economy. Robust economic conditions support the expansion of travel. In turn connectivity stimulates economic growth and creates jobs. It’s a tried and tested virtuous circle. And the expectation is for continued solid growth over the remainder of 2014,” said Tyler. “We cannot ignore, however, the risks that could de-rail this trajectory. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, weakness in the Eurozone, hostilities in Eastern Ukraine and instability in the Middle East loom large. Airlines are on track to record a profit of some $18 billion this year. But that is a net profit margin of just 2.4% which does not provide much of a buffer. So it is critical that governments shore-up connectivity with business friendly policies based on reasonable taxation, cost-efficient infrastructure and smart regulation.”


Great-West Life Announces Acquisition Of PlanDirect Insurance Services Inc. (PDAssure)

The Great-West Life Assurance Company today announced that it has acquired PlanDirect Insurance Services Inc. (PDAssure), a service provider that markets and administers individual health insurance for Canadians.

The acquisition is effective immediately. PDAssure will retain its name and will operate as a subsidiary of Great-West Life. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. "We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with PDAssure to acquire their business," said Stefan Kristjanson, Great-West Life's Executive Vice-President, Group. "Great-West Life and PDAssure have had a successful relationship over the past two decades, supporting the individual health insurance needs of Canadian retirees and families. Now with PDAssure as part of our organization, Great-West Life is strongly positioned to become a leader in this marketplace."

"We were looking to retire from a successful business we had built," said Chief Operating Officer Millar Drummond, who along with his partner, President Rolf Normandin, founded PDAssure in Toronto in 1994. "Our choice of Great-West Life was based on a number of factors, including Great-West Life's commitment to client service, reputation for quality, and leadership in serving the group life and health insurance needs of Canadians."

Drummond and Normandin will continue to be associated with PDAssure for an interim period, to help ensure a smooth transition.


Marsh Canada Acquires Kocisko Insurance Brokers Inc.

Marsh Canada, a subsidiary of Marsh, a global leader in insurance broking and risk management, announced today the acquisition of Kocisko Insurance Brokers Inc., a full-service commercial insurance brokerage based in Montreal, Quebec.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Kocisko focuses on providing commercial insurance and risk management solutions to construction and surety operations throughout the province of Quebec. The Kocisko team will join Marsh Canada’s National Construction and Surety Practice, and will be based in Marsh’s Montreal location.

“I’m delighted to welcome Terry Kocisko and his talented and experienced team of construction and surety specialists to Marsh,” said Alan Garner, president & CEO, Marsh Canada Limited. “This addition enables us to offer greater resources and a broader platform to serve the needs of construction clients in Quebec.”

“Becoming a part of Marsh Canada Limited is a terrific evolution for Kocisko,” said Terry Kocisko, CEO of Kocisko. “Our clients will benefit from the tremendous service and broader array of capabilities and resources that Marsh has to offer.”


Aviva Launches Health Records App For International Solutions Customers

Customers with Aviva’s International Solutions private medical insurance will now be able to access a new personal membership smartphone app, which can store their medical records, provides details of how to claim wherever they are in the world, and gives immediate access to emergency assistance and medical advice.

The free International Solutions App provides customers with peace of mind that if they need urgent medical treatment abroad, their medical history can be quickly and safely accessed and shared from their mobile device. The app enables customers anywhere in the world to view, update and provide trusted medical professionals with tailored access to their personal medical records.

With a high level of functionality, the International Solutions App allows customers to record a range of medical details including allergies, conditions, immunizations, medications and tests, as well as the ability to store images of scans and x-rays. The customer can choose which medical records to share with their healthcare providers, and any information they would like to store in a password-protected Emergency Records area, which a chosen family member or colleague can immediately access in the event of an emergency.

When healthcare or emergency support is needed, the app will enable customers to dial straight through to Aviva and its 24 hour emergency assistance and medical advice service, as well as to a list of their healthcare providers. There is also a clear step-by-step guide on how to make a claim and details about International Solutions cover.

Teresa Rogers, head of international at Aviva UK Health said, “Our international customers are increasingly mobile across the globe and remote working on mobile devices has become the norm, so we’re delighted to be able to improve customers’ experience of their International Solutions cover by providing them with safe mobile access to their personal medical records and round-the-clock health services. The launch of the app is the next stage of Aviva’s digitisation of its International Solutions offer and it will provide customers with greater convenience and flexibility in accessing healthcare and sharing vital medical records with providers, wherever they are in the world. In the event of illness or injury abroad, the app will give customers peace of mind that all their vital health information is recorded and quickly accessible.”

The International Solutions App is available to download free, with immediate, effect for all individual and corporate customers with an Aviva International Solutions policy1. It has been produced in partnership with Medelinked2, who developed Aviva’s My Health Passport online record system for International Solutions customers, which launched in 2012.

Recognising the app will also benefit and appeal to other customers, Aviva has arranged an exclusive discount for other Aviva product holders. Anyone with an Aviva policy will be able to download the app for £12.50 for 12 months or £7.50 for 6 months. Standard rates apply for non-Aviva customers, at £29.95 for 12 months or £19.95 for 6 months.

There is also a free 30 day trial for any customer. The app stores customers’ medical records securely through the My Health Passport online records system. The customer has sole control over the information that is stored and whether they wish any healthcare individual or organisation to view any part of their medical records. Aviva is unable to access any of the data, unless the user chooses to specifically share chosen information.

1. The Aviva International Solutions App is available to all customers with an Aviva International Solutions policy, through Google Play and ITunes App stores. Supported phones are the iPhone 4 and above, with operating system iOS 7 and above, and most Android phones with operating system version 4 and above.

2. Medelinked is the new name for Zaptag UK Ltd, which developed Aviva’s My Health Passport online records system for International Solutions customers in 2012.


Squaremouth Launches Iceland Volcano Travel Insurance Information Center

For over a week, earthquakes have threatened an eruption by Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano. Travelers who remember the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010 are already turning to travel insurance to learn their options.

To answer their questions, Squaremouth, America's fastest growing travel insurance comparison site, has launched The Icelandic Volcano and Travel Insurance Information Center. The comprehensive center includes official position statements by Squaremouth's travel insurance providers. Thus far, only one provider has outright excluded coverage for losses related to the volcano. The Information Center also includes travel warnings and frequently asked questions, including "If the airline cancels flights due to the volcano, am I covered?" and "Am I covered if the volcano erupts while I'm traveling?". It is updated daily by Squaremouth's team of industry experts.

"The 2010 eruption had major impacts on the travel industry internationally," said Squaremouth marketing manager, Megan Singh. "While we can't prevent a repeat, we can ensure travelers know their options before an eruption occurs. The Information Center is a place where they can find the most up-to-date position statements and answers to their coverage questions."

Currently, travel insurance policies can be purchased from most providers to cover a traveler whose trip becomes cancelled, interrupted or delayed by the Bardarbunga volcano. However, coverage can change if an eruption becomes "foreseeable". Because the seismic conditions in Iceland are constantly changing, Squaremouth recommends concerned travelers consider purchasing a travel insurance policy sooner rather than later.


Bumrungrad Eyes China Healthcare Market

The second largest hospital operator in Thailand, Bumrungrad Hospital Pcl, is currently seeking international opportunities, with a view to expand in China, Myanmar and Vietnam. The news breaks following the domestic political crisis in Thailand, which has prompted the operator to cut its revenue target this year.

CEO Dennis Brown told major media that following months of political unrest the hospital operator cut the 2014 revenue growth target to between 7 and 10% from 10 to 15%.

The issues surrounding the political stability of Thailand were further represented by the hospitals international patient figures. In the 1st half of 2014 foreign patients, who account for approx. 60% of revenue, fell 12% for outpatients and 8% for inpatients.

"We anticipate between 7 to 10 % growth this year. Normally, we expect 10 to 15 %," Brown confirmed.

Fast facts:

  • Bumrungrad began international expansion in 1997, following Asia's financial crisis;
  • In March 2014 Bumrungrad acquired a 41% stake in a Mongolian hospital;
  • Has cash of about 6 Billion Baht;
  • Has set a budget of about 600 Million Baht a year to spend on equipment replacement and new machines.

China Healthcare Market Opens Up

With recent news from Beijing confirming that international investors may now wholly own a 100% of hospitals and elderly care homes in China, without a joint venture, Brown is excited at the opportunity to invest in China.

Over the years, Beijing has slowly opened the doors to overseas investment, allowing foreign investors to own 70% in past hospital joint ventures.


DHL Adds China To DHL Thermonet Network

DHL Global Forwarding, the air and ocean freight specialist within Deutsche Post DHL, expands its service offerings for the Life Sciences and Healthcare industry in China and added Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to the company's worldwide DHL Thermonet network of Certified Life Sciences Stations as of 1 July 2014.

The 2,000-square meter facilities in Shanghai and Beijing are owned by DHL Global Forwarding while the airport facilities are located in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen with specific operational arrangements. All the facilities in China are in close proximity to airports and together, they offer more than 6,200 square meters of -15 degrees Celsius to +25 degrees Celsius cold storage space to serve DHL's global customer base in the Life Sciences & Healthcare sector with temperature-controlled airfreight shipment needs.

"Our customers in the Life Sciences and Healthcare sector are looking for better ways to manage the risk of product damage and loss from temperature deviations in their supply chain. DHL Thermonet tackles these requirements and offers China consignors and consignees access to a reliable end-to-end cold chain," says Steve Huang, CEO, DHL Global Forwarding China.

DHL is constantly expanding its DHL Thermonet network of Certified Life Sciences Stations and plans to reach 65 by end of 2014 and 80 by end of 2015. The DHL facilities in Shanghai and Beijing are audited against globally defined Good Distribution Practices (GDP) to ensure conformity across the network. All the facilities in China offer customers temperature monitoring, refrigerated truck delivery and pick-up, active container handling and passive packaging handling to ensure product quality at all times.

The facilities in China also offer different temperature warning systems from visual and audible alarms to multiple warning alerts via text messages and emails if temperature is exceeded. Backup power in the case of power outage as well as onsite security and CCTV footage are additional available features. The life sciences commodities which are expected to transit through these cold room facilities include pharmaceutical products, reagents, API active ingredients and vaccines.

Within Q4 of 2014, DHL plans to further expand the station's capabilities in Shanghai with additional 1,609 square meters of -15 degrees Celsius to +25 degrees Celsius cold storage space. In recent years, temperature controlled products for the pharmaceutical industry have gained significantly in importance.

The driving force is biotechnology products, which generally must be kept within a strict temperature range during transportation. The worldwide sales volume of this product category tripled from USD 56 bn in 2004 to an estimated USD 167 bn in 2013.[1] For the future, further growth is expected.

DHL Thermonet provides seamless temperature visibility along the supply chain, 24/7 proactive monitoring and intervention based on pre-determined touch points and DHL's RFID SmartSensor technology, that is also GDP certified. Temperature data and logistics events can be accessed via the proprietary LifeTrack IT platform that also houses all product-specific SOPs, facilitating early intervention and simplifying document control.

[1] Source: EvaluatePharma World Preview 2013


Air Freight Markets Show Strong Increase In Air Cargo July 2014

Data for global air freight markets shows a strong increase in air cargo in July. Compared to July 2013, freight tonne kilometers (FTKs) rose 5.8%. This is an acceleration in growth from June when cargo demand grew at less than half that rate (2.4%). The strong growth mirrors positive developments in some key regional economies.

After a slowdown at the start of the year, global business confidence and trade are showing signs of improvement again, especially in Asia-Pacific. Global air cargo volumes have now surpassed their previous July peak, in 2010, and look set to continue to increase. European air freight, however, grew just 1.8%. This reflects the effects of the Russia-Ukraine crisis (including the impact of mounting economic sanctions), which is adding to economic weakness in the Eurozone.

“Overall, July saw growth accelerate. That’s good news and it reflects the continued strengthening of business confidence at a global level. But the air cargo industry is moving at two speeds with a sharp divide in regional performance. European carriers reported anemic growth of just 1.8% while all other regions reported solid gains of 5% or more on the previous year. In particular, the 7.1% growth reported by airlines in Asia-Pacific is encouraging as it demonstrates a recovery in trade and a positive response to China’s economic stimulus measures,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Asia-Pacific airlines showed their strongest rise in air cargo volumes since the start of 2013, increasing 7.1% compared to a year ago. The fortunes of the region’s carriers are tied to the strength of major economies such as China, Japan and South Korea, which are expanding again after a slowdown at the start of the year. Capacity grew 4.0%.

European carriers saw little improvement in cargo demand, expanding FTKs just 1.8% compared to a year ago. The weakness of major economies such as France and Italy, along with the effect of EU sanctions on Russia, has dampened demand. Capacity expanded 4.4%.

North American airlines grew their FTKs by 5.2%. After weakness in the first quarter, trade volumes have rebounded and business growth trends look positive for the months ahead. Capacity fell 1.3%.

Middle Eastern freight markets expanded 9.4%. This strong performance came despite the impact of Ramadan. Airlines in the region are capturing growth opportunities by opening routes to fast-developing economies such as Mexico and Uganda. Capacity rose 7.8%.

Latin American carriers grew FTKs by 7.6% year-on-year. This encouraging performance could be the start of a pick-up in activity following months of weakness, particularly in Brazil. Capacity contracted 0.6%.

African carriers’ FTKs grew 11.3%. However, African freight volumes remain highly volatile, and given the slowdown in South Africa this year, it is too early to say that prolonged growth acceleration is underway. Capacity grew 4.5%.

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