Adrian Leonard lists the top stories of 2004

Spitzer, Converium, Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne ... 2004 was a year of memorable names in the reinsurance industry, names which overlie a gently softening market, shots over the bow at risk modellers, incremental progress for the Class of 2001, and the continued concern over the deterioration of old-year results. Yet reinsurers' earnings reports have been generally strong. Some have shrunk their top line, while others have grown dramatically. No major launches were announced, although a few companies got out of the game. While the big news of 2004 arrived in the final months, hardly a day went by without headlines.

January

1 January Axa Re & SPS Re formalise their merger and begin operating as a single entity, after Axa buys the 30% share of SPS held by BNP Paribas. Gerling Global Re unveils a name change to Global Re, and a reduction of its nominal capital to EUR50m.

5 January Benfield acquires 43% of International Space Brokers, taking its share to 86%.

6 January SCOR announces the completion of its EUR751m capital increase, which was oversubscribed by 4%. Groupama's stake in the reinsurer rises to 21.4%.

12 January Willis agrees to acquire Danish reinsurance broker Kirecon.

16 January Benfield Australia buys broker Airs Re of Australia.

19 January An explosion at an LNG production plant in Skikda, Algeria, results in large energy market claims.

20 January The UK Financial Services Authority releases its conduct of business rules, giving brokers and insurers one year to prepare for the start of statutory regulation of non-life insurance sales.

22 January Endurance reports 2003 net income of $263.4m on gross premiums of $1.6bn, and a combined ratio 84.7%.

26 January Aspen Re forms a new property reinsurance team in Connecticut.

31 January Creditors of the KWELM run-off vote in favour of early closure of the scheme.


February

2 February Everest Re reports 2003 net income of $426.0m on gross premiums of $4.57bn, up 60.7%, for a combined ratio of 95.2%. Max Re reports 2003 net income of $120.6m.

3 February Africa Re of Nigeria announces the formation of a new subsidiary, Africa Re South Africa. Renaissance Re reports 2003 net income of $605m on gross premiums of $1.4bn and a combined ratio of 56.4%.

5 February Swiss Re agrees to buy CNA Financial's individual life insurance business for $690m, and place it into run-off.

9 February Partner Re reports 2003 net income of $467.7 m, on net premiums of $3.6bn, and a non-life combined ratio of 94.5%.

10 February IPC Re reports 2003 net income of $260.6m on gross premiums of $322.8m, and a combined ratio of 34.0%.

11 February AXIS Capital reports 2003 net income of $532.3m on gross premium of $2.3bn, including $462.9m from global reinsurance and $204.1m from US reinsurance, and an overall combined ratio is 73.7%. PXRE reports 2003 net income of $96.6m on net premiums of $278.4m, and a combined ratio of 74.7%. Platinum Re reports 2003 net income of $144.8m on net premium of $1.2bn, and a combined ratio of 84.7%. Transatlantic Re reports 2003 net income of $303.6m on net premiums of $3.3bn, and a combined ratio of 96.5%.

12 February Montpelier Re reports 2003 net income of $407.1m on gross premiums of $809.7m and a combined ratio of 50.3%.

13 February Renaissance Re, Partner Re, Koch Financial and MBIA form Channel Reinsurance Ltd, a new Bermuda financial guarantee reinsurer.

16 February Swiss Re reports premium growth of 7% for non-life during the 1.1 renewal season, fuelled by both price rises and new business.

17 February Arch Capital reports 2003 net income of $280.6m on net premiums of $2.74bn and a combined ratio of 90.0%. Converium reports 2003 net after-tax income of $185.1m on gross premium of $4.2bn, and a non-life combined ratio of 97.9%.

18 February Hannover Re places hybrid debt issue of EUR750m.

19 February Munich Re says premium volume for business renewed at 1.1 was up by 9% on average, due equally to price rises and larger shares, with 21% of business not renewed. The New South Wales Supreme Court orders Hannover Re to pay about A$300m to the liquidators of HIH.

20 February Aspen Insurance reports 2003 net income of $152.1m on gross premiums of $1.3bn, and a combined ratio of 78%.

23 February Allied World reports 2003 net income of $288.4m from gross written premium of $1.57bn, after achieving a combined ratio of 84.9%.

26 February Munich Re opts not to participate in a capital raising at HypoVereinsbank, allowing its holding to fall from 25.7% to less than 20%.


March

12 March Willis announces plans to move into purpose-built offices designed by Lord Foster on the site of the Lloyd's 1954 building, across from 1 Lime Street. Underwriters of Endurance Specialty's secondary offering buy shares to cover over-allotments. Benfield sells warrants for 2,390,785 shares of Montpelier Re to White Mountains subsidiary Fund American Re for $54m.

15 March Alea Holdings reports net IPO proceeds of $263.7m, pre-tax profit for 2003 of $48.5m on gross premium of $1.3bn, and a combined ratio of 94.9%.

16 March The Exxon Valdez LMX spiral trial concludes in London.

17 March Munich Re declares a EUR434m loss for 2003, but an underwriting profit of EUR2.0bn and combined ratios of 96.7% in reinsurance and 96.4% in primary business on gross premium of EUR40.4bn, up 1%.

24 March Renaissance Re raises $250m through a share offering. Everest Re prices a share offering for net proceeds of $271m.

25 March Swiss Re reports net income of CHF 1.7bn for 2003, on premiums of CHF 30.7bn. Property and casualty premium is up 25% in original currencies, the combined ratio is 98.4%. Axis Capital agrees a $750m syndicate loan.

26 March Arch Capital closes a public share offering yielding net proceeds of $169m. Axis Capital files a secondary share offering for $580m.

29 March Hannover Re reports 2004 full-year net profit of EUR354.8m on gross premiums of EUR11.3bn and a P&C combined ratio of 96.0%, and reveals that a 20.5% fall in gross P&C premiums is due in part to the fact that it no longer accepts the entire reinsurance volume of parent HDI affiliate companies. Platinum Re and Glencoe Group grant MGA Savannah Re authority to underwrite property facultative and programme reinsurance risks.


April

1 April SCOR reports a 2003 net loss of EUR314m on premium income of EUR3.7bn, down 7% at constant exchange rates, with a non-life combined ratio of 96%.

5 April Thai Re reports 2003 net income of baht 394.6m, on premium of baht 3.12bn.

7 April Lloyd's reports annually accounted profits of £1,892m for 2003, an increase of 127% on 2002, and a combined ratio of 90.7%.

16 April White Mountains completes its acquisition of Sirius Insurance Group. Benfield sells its technology company Wildnet Group to private investors.

19 April White Mountains forms a holding company, White Mountains Re, combining Folksamerica Re, Fund American Re, White Mountains Underwriting, and Sirius Insurance Group.

21 April The European Commission presents its draft Reinsurance Directive.

30 April The jury comes down on the side of insurers in the World Trade Center trial to determine if the loss of the iconic New York building was one event or two. Re/insurers sharing $2.4bn of the $3.55bn policy limit learn they will have to pay it only once. Goshawk Re rebrands to Rosemont Re.


May

4 May Arch Capital closes a public debt offering yielding net proceeds of $298m.

6 May Increasingly competitive Caisse Centrale de Reassurance (CCR) reports 2003 gross premium income of EUR1.2bn, including EUR470.3m for traditional reinsurance.

19 May Swiss Re holds the official opening of its new branch office in Japan, the first to be established by a foreign reinsurer.

20 May Transatlantic Re declares a five-for-four stock split executed though a 25% share dividend.

27 May Montpelier Re enters a $450m facility to allow it to issue LoCs.


June

15 June Converium places $100m of five-year catastrophe bonds covering second-event Atlantic hurricane, US and Japanese earthquake, and European wind exposures.

25 June St Paul Travelers sells 6,000,000 shares in Platinum Re, but retains an option to acquire 6,000,000 shares.

28 June Aspen expands into London market marine. International Underwriting Association announces Global Aerospace Underwriting Managers CEO Tony Medniuk as its new chairman.

29 June Insurer Gothaer announces the closure and run-off of its reinsurance subsidiary, Gothaer Re, which was 27% owned by GeneralCologne Re.

30 June Berkshire Hathaway exercises share warrants to acquire 16.0% of White Mountains Insurance Group.


July

1 July Swiss Re announces plans to raise EUR640m as part of a debt refinancing, and acquires the run-off Windsor Life.

8 July Axis Capital opens its European headquarters in Dublin. Moscow Re receives a capital injection, raising its capital to RUB738m.

13 July Capital Insurance Holdings, backed in part by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, launches an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to raise £125m to fund a Lloyd's consolidation vehicle.

15 July Endurance closes a $250m debt issue.

19 July Everest Re reports H1 2004 net income of $390.1m, on gross premiums of $2.31bn, up 11.6%, and a combined ratio of 91.1%.

20 July Annuity & Life Re settles a shareholder lawsuit for $16.5m. Converium announces a reserve shortfall for US casualty of at least $400m, and impairments of up to $289m. Endurance reports H1 net income of $114.8m on gross premiums of $1.1bn, on a combined ratio of 79.3%.

26 July PartnerRe reports H1 net income of $265.5m on net premiums of $2.4bn, and a non-life combined ratio of 91.5%.

30 July Annuity & Life Re shares are suspended on the New York Stock Exchange.


August

4 August Axis Capital reports net income for H1, 2004 of $307.6m, from gross premiums of $1.7bn, including $558.9m from global reinsurance and $229.6m from US reinsurance. Overall combined ratio was 73.9%.

6 August Munich Re reports H1 profit of EUR1.16bn, on premiums of EUR19.7bn, down 2.7% at constant currencies from H1, 2003. Munich announces its shareholding in Allianz has fallen below 10%. American Re reports H1 net income of $186.9m on gross premiums of $2.1bn, down 10.2%, and a combined ratio of 101.5%.

9 August Hurricane Charley forms, later making landfall in Florida. Endurance enters an $850m syndicated loan facility.

11 August Aspen prices a $250m debt offering. Hannover Re reports net H1 2004 income of EUR211.5m, on gross premiums of EUR4.8bn, down 19.8%, and a P&C combined ratio of 94.3%.

25 August Hurricane Frances is named, later becoming the second landfalling hurricane of the year to hit Florida

26 August Swiss Re reports net income of CHF 1.4bn for H1 2004, on premium income of CHF 14.1bn, and return on equity of 15.6%. SCOR reports H1 net income of EUR58.1, on premium income of EUR1,308m, a non-life combined ratio of 98.9%, and approves its 'Moving Forward' plan. A car accident on the Wiehltal bridge near Cologne costs EUR33m and revives concerns over unlimited motor treaties.

30 August Allied World opens a reinsurance branch office in London.


September

3 September Aspen expands into London market aviation.

7 September General Electric unifies the branding of its insurance businesses, including Employers Re and Frankona Ruck, as GE Insurance Solutions.

9 September Hurricane Ivan forms, later causing havoc in the Caribbean before making landfall in Alabama. Quanta Capital is authorised to write business from Dublin, Ireland.

10 September After an S&P downgrade to BBB, Converium opts to run off its US business.

13 September Hurricane Jeanne is the third storm of the season to make landfall in battered Florida.

15 September Max Re forms a dedicated property reinsurance division.

21 September Alea Group reports H1 pre-tax profit of $24.2m on gross premium of $993.2m, with a combined ratio of 95.7%.

23 September Endurance hires Converium's agribusiness reinsurance team. Munich Re launches a service company in India. Folksamerica Re enters the health excess of loss market. Globale Ruck, the former Gerling Global Re in run-off, reports a balance sheet contraction of EUR100m for 2003 on net premium income of EUR148m and claims of EUR207m, and reveals that from 1 January 2005 services provided by Gerling companies will be supplied by Global Re or external providers.

28 September Typhoon Songda forms and heads towards Japan, the first of 10 such typhoons to cause serious insured losses.

29 September Alea Group announces a $250m credit facility.

30 September Endurance buys renewal rights to XL Re's $50m surety reinsurance business. Aspen shifts more business and $200m of capital to Bermuda.


October

1 October Willis completes its acquisition of Irish re/insurance broker Coyle Hamilton.

5 October Class actions filed against Converium by shareholders.

7 October Tryg Vesta announces the sale for run-off of Tryg-Baltica International, its reinsurance subsidiary, to White Mountains subsidiary Sirius International. Everest Re prices a $250m debt issue.

11 October Montpelier Re enters the stand-alone terrorism insurance market.

13 October Converium's $420m rights issue is "close to 100%" taken up.

14 October New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer files a civil complaint against Marsh & McLennan and Marsh Inc in the broker remuneration scandal.

15 October Ray J Groves steps down as chairman and CEO of Marsh. S&P upgrades Converium to BBB+.

18 October Scottish Re unveils a deal to buy the individual life reinsurance business of ING Re, and a plan to raise $230m to bolster its capital.

24 October Fox-Pitt, Kelton analyst Bob Yates states at an open forum in Baden-Baden that Swiss Re requires massive reserve increases.

25 October Jeffrey Greenberg resigns as chairman and CEO of Marsh & McLennan.

26 October The Risk & Insurance Managers Society's Benchmark Survey shows US commercial rates falling for third consecutive quarter. Marsh pledges to halt contingent commissions by 1 January 2005.

28 October Montpelier Re chairman Tony Taylor blasts modelling companies for underestimating hurricane losses. Fairfax issues $300m voting shares, including $100m to insurer Markel.


November

1 November Marsh declares it will collect all commissions owed under PSAs at 15 October, approximately $230m. The UK Faculty and Institute of Actuaries publishes research showing that UK asbestos-related diseases will cost from £8bn to £20bn, more than half for mesothelioma; insurers will pay half the total.

2 November Property Claim Services says US P&C insurers saw a record-breaking $21.3bn of property loss claims in Q3. US President George W Bush is elected for a second term with even greater congressional support, providing a boost to tort reform advocates.

4 November PXRE offers $100m in common shares. Converium Group CFO Martin Kauer resigns.

8 November Axis Capital plans to reorganise into two units focused on insurance and reinsurance. Munich Re transfers EUR500m to shore up the capital strength of primary insurance subsidiary Ergo. Marsh president and COO Roger Egan and Christopher Treanor, chairman and CEO of Marsh Global Placement, are asked to step down.

9 November Benfield sells its Premium Finance business to Singer & Friedlander Insurance Finance.


Adrian Leonard is a freelance insurance journalist and a regular contributor to Global Reinsurance.