Adrian Leonard summarises the main events of the last 12 months in Continental Europe.
January 3: American Re and PartnerRe join inreon, the global reinsurance transaction platform launched on 18 December 2000 with the backing of Munich Re, Swiss Re, Internet Capital Group and Accenture. Over the course of 2001, numerous other reinsurers and insurers joined the system, setting it up as the reinsurance trading platform with what looks like the best chances of success.
January 23: AGF-MAT acquired the shares which it did not already own of Westminster Aviation Insurance Group, one of the world's leading aviation insurance agencies, from GAN, the former state-owned French insurer which had been sold to Groupama. The cash deal took AGF's holding from 49% to 100%, making AGF, which is majority owned by Allianz, one of the top ten aviation insurers in the world.
January 25: Munich Re announced that it had successfully placed a $300m catastrophe bond issue. Munich had initially hoped that PRIME Capital, which uses a unique parametric trigger, would attract significantly more investment – the original target is rumoured to have been $750m – but timing and appetite worked against the German giant.
February 2: In GAN v Tai Ping, the UK Commercial Court supported a reinsurer's right to avoid a claim, despite the presence of a follow-the-fortunes clause, when a claims co-operation clause is included in the wording, and when the reinsured does not seek the input of the reinsurer in adjusting the claim.
February 7: As seemed inevitable, Swiss Re reorganised its operations in Germany, and rebranded subsidiary Bayerische Rück (Bavarian Re) as Swiss Re Germany. Many observers questioned the wisdom of consolidating Swiss Re's German operations and eliminating the well-known Bayerische Rück brand, but most competing reinsurers saw the move as a chance to increase their market positions in Germany. In addition, Swiss Re rationalised its diverse business units into three main operating groups with seven divisional subsidiaries
February 21: The Irish insurance regulator told the Dublin market of its intent to crack down on rogue reinsurers but it was the UK's Serious Fraud Office, not the Irish regulator, that brought charges against people associated with one Dublin reinsurer that could be described as notorious.
February 28: European motor reinsurers began re-examining their exposure to unlimited third party liability treaties after ten people were killed and 70 injured when an unfortunate motorist, insured by Fortis, left the road and collided with a passenger train in the UK. The train then collided with a freight train and was derailed. The loss, expected to fall to the motor policy, will certainly reach tens of millions of pounds, and could exceed £50m. Fortis' relevant reinsurance programme is with Munich Re, which, under an old reciprocal agreement, is believed to have retroceded part of the risk to Axa.
February: The European Union Insurance Committee's Reinsurance Subgroup met to discuss the possibility of a ‘single passport' for reinsurers within the EU. The European Commission submitted an internal issues paper to assist their discussion, and a draft directive is expected before the end of 2002, with regulation for reinsurers reflecting the light touch of the German model.
March 12: Hannover Re announced that it had placed a Ä350m, 30-year subordinated loan through its Luxembourg subsidiary. The loan qualifies for treatment as equity credit – also known as ‘hybrid capital – in the eyes of rating agency Standard & Poor's.
March 22: Zurich Financial Services announced that its $2bn reinsurance subsidiary, Zurich Re, would be granted its independence, spun-off and listed on the Zurich and New York stock exchanges. The new company will include reinsurance written in Zurich against parent-company paper, and the business of Zurich Re Cologne (formerly Aggripina Rück) and Zurich Re New York (once Zurich Re Centre), but not the business of Centre Re. Initially it will be owned by ZFS shareholders. Later in the year, the reinsurer unveiled its new brand, Converium.
March: Munich Re followed the trend of restructuring and reorganisation among the big reinsurers, cutting its organisational structure from 18 function-oriented departments to seven primarily regional departments, but including new business and life & health divisions.
March: Following Lothar and Martin, Swiss Re issued a new event clause which attempted to supersede time clauses in property reinsurance contracts, and replace them with event definitions based on meteorological data. The response of cedants to the change has, so far, been muted.
April 1: Allianz announced it was to acquire Dresdner Bank, German number three, in Europe's largest-ever bancassurance deal. Allianz ultimately bought the 81% of the bank it did not already own, and also garnered the 41% share of subsidiary Allianz Life that was owned by Munich Re. In return, Allianz will sell its 13.5% stake in Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank to the world's largest reinsurer, sparking speculation that Munich Re, with 25.7% of the business, may make a takeover bid for HVB.
April 4: French reinsurer SCOR confirmed that it was in talks with Groupama to acquire Sorema, the reinsurer that had been owned by GAN. The deal was finalised on May 23. It paid $295m in SCOR shares. Old-year business was largely guaranteed by GAN's former parent, Groupama.
April: GE Employers Re (now GE Re) announced a number of job cuts, including up to 250 in Europe and Asia, of which about a quarter were at the Munich headquarters of ERC Frankona.
May 2: Hannover Re announced the planned establishment of a new Bermudian subsidiary to write all its global catastrophe excess of loss business. As well as seeking new business, Hannover Re Bermuda has taken over all the parent company's catastrophe business.
May 9: Axa, Europe's second largest insurer and also one of its leading reinsurers and retrocessionnaires, announced a four-for-one stock split.
May 17: Leading reinsurers including Cologne Re, Gerling Global Re, Munich Re, PartnerRe, Renaissance Re, Swiss Re and Zurich Re, along with modelling companies agreed the draft version of CRESTAplus, an electronic reporting standard for cedants to use when transmitting data to reinsurers. A final version was agreed for use in June.
May 30: German bank Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank announced it was to put $185m behind Grand Central Re, a new composite Bermudian reinsurer to be run by Max Re. BHV will provide asset management. Max Re said the deal was a good opportunity for the reinsurer to move into Europe; it also looks like a good chance for Max Re to test an alternative to Moore Capital, the investment services provider whose fund of hedge funds is the backbone of Max Re's profitability.
June 9: US insurance regulators adopted a recommendation by the Reinsurance Task Force of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that allows European reinsurers to capitalise their multibeneficiary reinsurance trust finds with letters of credit.
June 18: Independent Insurance, once the darling of the UK stock market, was forced into liquidation. Some of the inwards risk accepted by Novi Re, its Dublin captive reinsurer, was discovered to be the same outwards business Independent had ceded to another Dublin operation, Ireco.
June 5: Tillinghast revealed some of the findings of proprietary research which projected that US asbestos claims would ultimately reach $200bn, of which between $56bn and $66bn would fall to non-US re/insurers. Later other experts, notably Milliman USA, disputed the size of the burden that would fall to non-US risk carriers, projecting a much lower figure.
June 6: Acord, the US insurance standards body announced to was to take over the standards-development business of WISe, the London-based standards body formed from the merger of the brokers' World Insurance Network (WIN), LIMNET and RINET. The news was welcome #since Acord has previously made progress in the area of electronic trading standards for the industry.
June 18: Stephen Cane, chief executive of Alea, was elected chairman of the International Underwriting Association of London.
June 25: Increasing its dominance of the online reinsurance trading market, inreon acquired US rival Risk Transfer Exchange (RTX).
July 25: Germany's private insurance group Gerling, through its reinsurer Gerling Global Re, launched a Ä220m subordinated bond, marking its entry into the Eurobond market. The much-anticipated public listing of Gerling, however, remains only a hope.
July 30: Swiss Re strengthened its dominance of the global life reinsurance business by acquiring the US company Lincoln Re, the world's third-largest life reinsurer, taking the Swiss giant's share of the US life reinsurance market to about 30%. The deal was worth about $2bn.
August 3: Zurich Re announced it had completed a $161.8m securitisation covering US hurricane and earthquake and European windstorm risk.
August 3: CNA Financial revealed the planned closure, of its London market reinsurance operation. In future, any European reinsurance previously underwritten by CNA Re in London would be handled in Zurich, the company said. CNA applied for branch status for subsidiary Continental Casualty Company's Zurich operations.
August 16: Ratings agency Standard & Poor's prognosticated a negative outlook for the European reinsurance industry.
August 22: Swiss Re, its 90% owned credit insurance subsidiary NCM Group, and Gerling Credit, part of the privately owned Gerling Group, revealed plans to merge NCM with Gerling Credit to form Gerling NCM Credit and Finance. Swiss Re ended up with a quarter of the credit insurer, and once again left competitors eager to pick up business fall-out resulting from its second major consolidation of 2001. The merged group writes about a quarter of global primary credit insurance.
August: Belgian reinsurer Secura, 95% owned by Belgian financial services group KVC, began fishing for a merger partner in order to build its capital backing to support further expansion.
August: Folksam General, the Swedish insurer, began looking for buyers for Folksam International, its reinsurance arm, in what was just the latest in the continued shake-up of the Scandinavian risk transfer sector, as large insurers shift their focus to life and health business.
September 7: XL Capital confirmed that it is to take a controlling interest in Le Mans Ré, the French reinsurer of Mutuelles du Mans Assurances. XL had 49% after buying into a joint venture with MMA based on MMA Re, and before year-end had taken its shareholding up to 67%.
September 10: In an accident of timing, Moody's, the ratings agency, announced that the European reinsurance industry's near term rating outlook was positive.
September 11: European reinsurers were dealt a stiff blow on the infamous day. Swiss Re leads the coverage on the Twin Towers themselves, and is now locked in a legal dispute with their owner over the number of events that led to their collapse. It is also lead insurer of Lloyd's Central Fund, which is expected to call upon its insurance protection. Munich Re announced losses of $1.9bn, Swiss Re of $1.2m, Zurich Financial Services (including Converium) of up to $900m, Axa of $400m, Hannover Re of $365m, Gerling Global Re of $200m to $245m, SCOR $150m to $200m, and Copenhagen Re of $19m to $43m. Rampant speculation suggests that the hit could be crippling or even fatal to some of the smaller reinsurers.
September 28: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners granted to European reinsurers a 45-day extension of the September 30 deadline to top-up multibeneficiary trust funds backing US liabilities. Nonetheless, millions of dollars were being transferred from Europe to the US to cover reinsurers' commitments.
October 30: Nordea Group, the Danish insurance and banking group, began looking for buyers for Tryg Baltica International, just the latest in the continued shake-up of the Scandinavian risk transfer sector, as large insurers shift their focus to life and health business.
November 14: The European Parliament adopted a report on the proposal for a directive on insurance intermediation. It would increase derogations and specific schemes for given categories of intermediary, and, according to the Comité Européen des Assurances, could “adversely affect the essential equality of competition between all insurance distributors in Europe, and therefore the level of consumer protection.”
November 17: Swiss Re announced the successful placement of securities, including shares and convertible bonds, worth CHF6bn.