DUBAI — Regulatory changes in some GulfCooperation Council (GCC) countries have pushed up insurance prices, particularly for motor and medical cover, improving the underwriting profitability of the region's insurers, Moody's Investors Service said ina report Thursday.
This includes the region's Shariah-compliant insurers ('Takaful' whether Cooperative or Takaful), many of which have in recent years made underwriting losses despite double-digit premium growth.
"The GCC Takaful insurance sector's improved performance will help it halt capital erosion, attract investor interest, and refocus on its most lucrative markets," said Mohammed Ali Londe, Assistant Vice President - Analyst at Moody's.
"Despite double digit growth in prior years, GCC Takaful insurers' underwriting profitability has been weak to negative in recent years – combined ratios for the region have been close to or above the 100% break-even point."
Moody's report "Insurance - Gulf Cooperation Council Countries: Islamic insurers' stronger underwriting profitability is credit positive" said the improved profitability of GCC Takaful insurers reflects an increase in prices triggered by regulatory changes, such as the introduction of actuarial reserving in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In Saudi Arabia, actuarial reserving and pricing contributed to a decline in the overall loss ratio to 77% in 2016 from 79% in 2015, and reducing further to 76% for the first nine months of 2017. In UAE, Takaful
operators' loss ratio fell to 63% for the same time period from 89% and 79% at year-ends 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Moody's said that the improvement in profitability will likely attract fresh interest in the GCC Takaful sector from both existing shareholders and new investors. This would allow Takaful operators to replenish their
capital as well as improve their financial flexibility, equipping them if necessary to participate in market consolidation.
Furthermore, improved profitability from medical and motor insurance will allow Takaful insurers to focus on these markets, cutting back on costly expansion into other product lines. Previously, the insurers' persistently weak underwriting performance put them under pressure to expand their product offering, incurring extra costs as a result. — SG