Risks have increased for Europe's insurers: watchdog

21st December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Risks for European insurance companies from the current debt crisis have increased in the past six months and up to eight groups failed so-called "stress tests," a new report showed on Wednesday.

In a twice-yearly report on financial stability in the insurance and occupational pension fund sectors, the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) found that risks in the sector "are at high levels, and are more pronounced than the first half of 2011."

The dangers arose from companies' "exposure to sovereign and banking debt as well as the macroeconomic outlook are the main factors, which may jeopardise the financial stability of the European insurance and occupational pension sectors going into 2012," the watchdog wrote.

EIOPA also revealed the results of its so-called "stress tests" for the sector.

The test was conducted using two different interest rate scenarios and eight insurance companies failed the first scenario and four firms failed the second one, the watchdog said.

It calculated that the failed insurers had a capital shortfall of six billion euros ($7.9 billion) and two billion euros in the first and second scenarios respectively.

"In addition, it was found that the solvency position of the industry on average would be adversely affected by a prolonged period of low yields," it said.

Significant natural catastrophes over the past year had let to "above-average losses" for insurers, it explained.

Summing up, EIOPA found that the financial turmoil "has in general not affected the occupational pensions sector as severely as some other financial industries.

"However, the crisis has had an impact on pension funds, primarily in their role as institutional investors, and has also had a significant impact on consumer confidence," it said.

© 2011 AFP

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