In its underwriting business, the group-level impact of COVID has not been exactly the same in France, where the portfolio is highly diversified, and internationally, where business (mainly non-life) in most countries is relatively focused on motor insurance.
In France, COVID has especially affected the group's non-life businesses, given the measures taken to support its customers and members, such as premium reduction and contribution to government spending through the health tax. Internationally, the situation is not comparable between some countries heavily affected by the pandemic, such as Italy, and other less-affected countries, such as Eastern European countries, Turkey, and China. However, the health crisis has resulted in decreased premium income in most countries, stemming from the various measures granted to customers, but with positive effects on the loss experience, which benefited from a lower frequency of motor insurance claims as a result of the lockdown measures.
Insurance premium income in France at 31 December 2020 amounted to EUR 12.0 billion, up +2.2% compared with 31 December 2019. The international business reached EUR 2.2 billion, down -1.7% on a like-for-like basis and with constant exchange rates compared with 31 December 2019.
International P&C insurance premium income totaled EUR 1,540 million at 31 December 2020, down -2.1% from the previous period. The motor insurance segment suffered a -5.6% decline, mainly from the Italian subsidiary, due to the COVID effect as well as the implementation of a strict underwriting and portfolio monitoring policy. Despite these particular circumstances, the subsidiaries in Hungary and Turkey posted an increase in motor insurance premiums. Growths in premium income were also reported in the agricultural business segment (+16.3%), particularly in Romania, and in the business and local authority insurance segment (+2.1%). In life and health insurance, premium income totaled EUR 705 million, down slightly by -1.0%. Individual life and health insurance decreased -1.8% due to the decline in individual savings/pensions (-3.4%), mainly in Italy. Group life and health insurance was up +5.0% in connection with the growth in the group retirement segment (+11.9%), especially in Italy and Greece.
The Group's economic operating income totaled EUR 306 million at 31 December 2020 compared with EUR 413 million at 31 December 2019. Economic operating income in life and health insurance stood at EUR206 million in 2020 versus EUR353 million in 2019. This decrease can be attributed primarily to business in France, which dropped EUR148 million over the period, heavily impacted in group insurance by the health crisis situation. However, economic operating income from life and health insurance at the international subsidiaries was virtually stable compared with 2019. In property and casualty insurance, economic operating income was EUR142 million compared with EUR113 million at 31 December 2019, down -EUR89 million in France and up +EUR118 million internationally.
The non-life net combined ratio was 98.7% in 2020 versus 97.0% in 2019 (+1.7 points). This change was due to the increase in the combined ratio in France. The loss experience for the 2020 fiscal year was affected by two opposite effects of COVID: an improved attritional loss experience, especially in motor insurance, and an increase in the cost of serious claims, which accounted for a significant part of the adverse changes, in particular in risks related to insurance for cancellations and operating losses for administrative closures. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the group protection and health insurance segments were affected notably by an increase in benefits (work stoppage, death) and by the introduction of a COVID tax. Internationally, the combined ratio improved significantly. The impact of the health crisis and the lockdown policies decreased the frequency of claims, which offset the decrease in new business, mainly in the motor insurance segment. It is worth noting that the Italian subsidiary's recovery plan contributed significantly to this improvement.
The full Groupama Group's statements is available on the group's website.