MEXICO CITY - Insured losses may amount to nearly USD 5 billion, cat modelling companies say

28 September 2017 — Daniela GHETU
Several catastrophe modeling companies have already issues their first assessments on the insured losses from the Mexico City earthquake: in the range of USD 731.6 million - USD 4.8 billion anything is possible.

Basically, the estimations are:
  • ERN International (top range) - of USD 4.8 billion
  • RMS - USD 1.2 billion
  • AIR Worldwide - USD 731.6 million, but losses could triple under certain conditions
According RMS, total economic losses may amount in between USD 4 - 8 billion. Moody's Investors Service said that the earthquake "has the potential to be one of Mexico's costliest natural catastrophes," the preliminary estimates showing that the overall economic losses may amount to 0.1 - 0.3% of the Mexico's GDP in the last two quarters of the year.

Although there is a big difference among the three modellers estimations, there is also a common conclusion: the country has low insurance penetration rates, particularly in residential lines.

The country's high exposure to the seismic risk is well known and led to a constant concern regarding the building's resistance to the seismic shock. According to AIR, most commercial buildings in Mexico use engineered masonry or concrete construction, increasing their ability to withstand ground motion. Moreover, in Mexico City, most middle- to upper-class families live in five- to 15-story reinforced concrete commercial dwellings, generally well-designed and built with high-quality materials. On the other hand, dwelling insurance has a rather low penetration, meaning that there are still many vulnerable households.

The earthquake destroyed 52 buildings, including apartments and office buildings in Mexico City. Mexico City Mayor said that 360 "red level" buildings would either have to be demolished or receive major structural reinforcement. An additional 1,136 are reparable, and 8,030 buildings inspected so far were found to be habitable.

The Sept. 19 earthquake was centered on Raboso in the state of Puebla, 75 miles from the capital. It came 11 days after a magnitude 8.1 earthquake 404 miles southeast of Raboso. A third, magnitude 6.1 earthquake shook the same area hard-hit by the first earthquake in Chiapas on Sept. 23 and may have been an aftershock.

According to a Best's Briefing, nearly all leading Mexican insurance companies are based in Mexico City. "For most of these firms, business interruptions may be more of a factor than actual property damage because of damaged infrastructure," it said. The Mexican insurance industry mitigates the impact from catastrophic exposures by "maintaining conservative retention levels and coverage from reinsurers with strong security levels"

The top five writers of catastrophes/earthquake coverage in Mexico in 2016, based on gross premiums written, were (A.M.Best): Axa Seguros S.A. de C.V, with a 12.8% market share; Seguros Banorte Generali S.A. de C.V., 9.9%; Seguros Inbursa S.A. Grupo Financiero Inbursa, 8.9%; Grupo Nacional Provincial S.A.B., 8.1%; and Mapfre Tepeyac S.A., 7.5%.

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