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French Version

Insurers welcome slight slowdown in growth as evidence of 'resilience'

Although insurance revenues from non-life premiums in Lebanon grew at a slower rate in 2006 than the previous year, according to figures released on Thursday, insurance pollsters called the industry "resilient" given pressures associated with the summer 2006 war with Israel and ensuing political fallout.

According to an Al Bayan magazine survey, published by Bank Audi this week, net non-life premiums were $446.8 million in 2006, constituting a rise of 4.8 percent from $426.4 million in 2005. The related growth rate in 2005 was 7.4 percent.

The study covered 50 providers of non-life insurance, of which 12 firms registered a double-digit increase.

None of the surveyed firms recorded a triple-digit growth in 2006, as opposed to two firms in 2005, and one firm remained non-operational since 2005.

The survey indicated that contrary to expectations, the insurance sector in Lebanon, similar to the banking sector, achieved outstanding results in 2006, despite the summer war and the political instability that has followed.

"In fact, the growth rates posted during 2005 and 2006 suggest that the non-life insurance sector in Lebanon is quite resilient, as adverse economic and political conditions prevailed during both years, especially during the second half of 2006," the survey said.

The survey suggested that had the sector continued its activity at the booming pace that existed during the first half of 2006, the growth rate would have been higher.

Medgulf maintained its market lead with $64.1 million in non-life premiums in 2006, equivalent to a 14.3 percent market share and up by 6.4 percent from $60.2 million in 2005.

Bankers was ranked second with $45.8 million, followed by Axa Middle East with $30.2 million, SNA with $26.6 million and Libano Suisse with $23.3 million as the top 5 providers of non-life insurance.

The top 10 insurers were nearly unchanged from the previous survey, except for an exchange between Arope and Libano Arabe for the 7th and 9th positions, with Arope rising two notches to the rank 7th in 2006.

On the other hand, Commercial made a new entry to the top twenty insurers, rising from the 22nd position in 2005 to the 18th position in 2006.

Moreover, all of the top 10 insurers posted increases in their premiums.

SNA reported the biggest year-on-year rise among the top 10 insurers at 13.8 percent.

It was followed by Libano Suisse with a 12.9 percent rise, Arope with a 12.5 percent rise, Cumberland with an 11.2 percent rise, Axa Middle East with a 9.6 percent rise and Fidelity with an 8.4 percent rise.

The year on-year rise of the market share of the top ten insurers indicates that those companies achieved a slightly higher growth than the average growth rate of the non-life market.

Their aggregate non-life premium reached $258.6 million in 2006 compared to $265.5 million in 2005, $242.4 million in 2004, $229.3 million in 2003, $214.2 million in 2002 and $198.2 million in 2001.

The top 20 insurers controlled 84.2 percent of the total market, with an aggregate premium amounting to $376.4 million.

Beirut 03-05-2007
The Daily Star

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