As global reinsurance executives gathered in Monte Carlo for their annual Reinsurance Rendezvous, Fitch Ratings said it expects consolidation of the industry will continue.
Fitch’s report echoes similar findings in an S&P Global ratings report issued toward the end of August.
Fitch said intense market competition and capital levels will continue to drive merger and acquisition activity in the reinsurance sector while smaller players lacking scale and diversification will see further pressure on growth and profitability.
Marginalized companies are increasingly incentivized to explore M&A as they face the challenges of operating in a difficult market environment, according to Fitch.
These factors, coupled with the impact of the U.S. tax reforms and the record 2017 catastrophe losses, should support M&A activity for the sector into 2019, the firm’s analysts said.
According to Fitch, the potential benefits of consolidation for reinsurers include revenue diversification, economies of scale, improved return on capital and an enhanced competitive position. However, acquirers in a competitive bid situation run the increased risk of dilutive rather than accretive acquisitions, particularly when assessing the reserve adequacy of a target company and the potential complications in execution and efficient integration.
Reinsurers are also focusing on cost efficiencies and expanding penetration in developing markets. Recent reinsurance acquisition multiples have ranged from 1.1x to 1.6x book value, with revenue multiples ranging from 0.7x to 1.9x.
Acquisitions providing alternative capital platforms in order to diversify revenue streams have grown tremendously in recent years. Aon Securities estimates that alternative capital deployment has increased by 10 percent from the end of 2017 to $98 billion at the end of the first half of this year, which is nearly double the $50 billion amount at the end of 2013. Fitch analysts said Markel’s acquisition of Nephila allows it to further expand into the more fee-based insurance-linked securities (ILS) sector, solidifying its position as the leading manager of ILS funds. It follows Markel’s December 2015 purchase of CatCo, a retrocession and reinsurance investment specialist, demonstrating the further convergence of traditional (re)insurance and alternative capital market reinsurance.
Larger deals, while more difficult to justify on a cost-saving basis, highlight the trend of gaining scale and diversification in order to stay relevant in a competitive marketplace, Fitch said. AXA’s acquisition of XL Group for $15.2 billion (1.5x book value) is expected to close by year-end. XL will become part of a very strong, larger multiline organization in combining with AXA, the largest insurer in Europe by gross premiums written. This acquisition follows AIG’s July 2018 purchase of Bermuda-based Validus for $5.4 billion (1.6x book value), providing AIG with a profitable reinsurance and Lloyd’s market platform. Furthermore, both deals provide access to established alternative capital platforms that neither company has currently, Fitch noted.
Fitch said the acquisition of smaller, capital-constrained businesses is reflected in lower acquisition multiples. Apollo Funds’ $2.6 billion acquisition of Aspen Insurance (1.1x book value) reflects the distressed nature of its reinsurance business and its outsized catastrophe losses in 2H17. Maiden Re was also being marginalized, which forced its breakup and sale to runoff specialist Enstar Group Limited for $308 million, with the renewal rights on this reinsurance business being sold to Transatlantic Re. Fitch said this effectively puts Maiden Re out of business, as it will only serve as a captive reinsurer for AmTrust, which has been dealing with financial difficulties of its own.
Source: Fitch Ratings
*This story ran previously in our sister publication Insurance Journal