The European Central Bank’s bond-buying plan may not help the region’s economic recovery while it makes the investment decisions harder for insurers and reinsurers, Scor SE Chief Executive Officer Denis Kessler said.
“It’s too late, it has been badly tailored, it’s badly shaped,” Kessler, 62, said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Francine Lacqua and Guy Johnson on Thursday, referring to the ECB’s quantitative easing plan. “We pay a huge cost today because the return on the assets side is very low.”
ECB President Mario Draghi’s pledge to buy 60 billion euros ($66 billion) of assets a month through September 2016 may create bubbles in real estate or some equity markets, while squeezing returns on government bonds, Kessler said. That reduces an insurer’s investment options because European rules impose no capital charges on sovereign bonds while requiring “quite high” costs for investing in corporate bonds or equities, Kessler said.
Scor, France’s largest reinsurer, doesn’t plan to tender government bonds to the ECB, Kessler said. The Paris-based company had 16.2 billion euros in invested assets at the end of December, about 33 percent of which was in government and similar bonds, according to its website.
Meanwhile, Scor reported its 2014 annual results. Net income for the year jumped to 512 million euros ($564.8 million), a jump of 40 percent compared to 2013. That excludes an exceptional gain on the purchase of nearly 183 million euros ($201.9 million) linked to Scor’s Generali U.S. life reinsurance arm, which it acquired in late 2013.
Gross written premiums came in at nearly 11.3 billion euros ($12.5 billion), a 10.4 percent increase over 2013. Scor said the jump also came from Generali U.S., and from growth of its life reinsurance and related financial services arm in Asia. Scor Global P&C also drove increases, the company said.
Scor Global P&C gross written premiums are booked at 4.9 billion euros ($5.4 billion) for the year, a 2.7 percent increase versus 2013.
Scor Global P&C produced a net combined ratio of 91.4, versus 93.9 in 2013.
Scor said its solvency ratio “remains marginally above the optimal range.”
*Carrier Management added fiscal 2014 financial results to this story.