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Announcement:

Moody's keeps outlook on European insurance sector at stable but highlights growing risks

19 Nov 2018

Paris, November 19, 2018 -- Moody's Investors Service has kept its outlook on the European insurance industry at stable as still solid economic growth supports insurance sales and interest rates will likely rise gradually. Nonetheless, the prospect of more M&A and continued changes in asset mix create risks for the sector.

The report, "Insurance -- Europe: 2019 outlook remains stable as solid economic growth, increasing rates offset rising M&A and asset risks," is now available on www.moodys.com. Moody's subscribers can access this report via the link at the end of this press release. The research is an update to the markets and does not constitute a rating action.

In the Euro area, growth will remain robust although less heady than in 2018, at around 1.8% in 2019, compared with an expected 2% in 2018. This will help drive growth in property and casualty (P&C) premiums. Moody's also expects P&C insurers to remain disciplined in their underwriting, but tough competition in most markets will curb their ability to raise prices and offset increase in claims. This will lead to some deterioration in combined ratios in most markets.

Moody's expects interest rates to rise gradually. Pressures on P&C insurers' investment returns will therefore gradually ease, even if investment returns will still decline in 2019. However, life insurers, which hold assets with a longer duration than P&C insurers, will face prolonged pressures on investment results. Most life insurers are able to adapt and protect their margins, but some life insurers, notably in Germany, still face solvency pressures.

"The profitability of the European insurance sector is increasingly pressured by non-insurers, such as asset managers in the life segment, or technology firms and reinsurers in the P&C segment. As a response, insurers alter their business model and pursue growth opportunities, which will drive an increase in M&A activity, with cross-sector M&A becoming more frequent," said Benjamin Serra, a Senior Vice President at Moody's. M&A typically reduces capital, increases leverage, and creates execution risk for insurers. Closed book transactions are also rising according to Moody's.

The rating agency also highlights that European insurers will continue to increase their investments in illiquid assets and in lower quality assets while at the same time non-financial corporate leverage is rising and debt covenants are weakening, signaling late-cycle risks. Asset risk is therefore growing for European insurers which are not all yet equipped to deal with a deterioration in the credit quality of illiquid assets.

A hard Brexit and further deterioration in the credit quality of the Italian sovereign are the two key downside risks to Moody's stable outlook for the sector. The rating agency's base case is that a Brexit agreement is likely to be reached after fraught negotiations but the risks of a "no-deal" scenario are significant.

Subscribers can access the report at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1150683

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS ONLY: For more information, please call one of our global press information hotlines: New York +1-212-553-0376, London +44-20-7772-5456, Tokyo +813-5408-4110, Hong Kong +852-3758-1350, Sydney +61-2-9270-8141, Mexico City 001-888-779-5833, São Paulo 0800-891-2518, or Buenos Aires 0800-666-3506. You can also email us at mediarelations@moodys.com or visit our web site at www.moodys.com

This publication does not announce a credit rating action. For any credit ratings referenced in this publication, please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the most updated credit rating action information and rating history.

Benjamin Serra
Senior Vice President
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's France SAS
96 Boulevard Haussmann
Paris 75008
France
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

Antonello Aquino
Associate Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's France SAS
96 Boulevard Haussmann
Paris 75008
France
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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