15 Mar 2011

Natural disasters will push up insurance premiums

10:43 am on 15 March 2011

Rises of 10% or more in local insurance premiums are on the cards as a run of disasters hits the global insurance industry.

Analysts say insurers could be left with a $35 billion bill from the earthquake and tsunami damage in Japan, which would make it one of the costliest disasters for the industry ever.

Insurers are also paying out for damage from the Christchurch earthquakes and Australia's floods.

Credit Suisse analyst John Heagarty says the losses could choke off funds to the industry, driving up costs by more than 20% and premiums by 10% or more.

AXA New Zealand says reinsurance costs for local insurers' life policies could also rise following the large loss of life in Japan.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund says it is not expecting losses on a $400 million investment linked to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, but is not yet ruling them out.

The fund invested last year in 'catastrophe bonds' with a Chicago-based intermediary which underwrites insurance payouts after natural disasters, including earthquakes in Japan.

A spokesperson for the fund says that, based on information so far, the quake is not expected to trigger losses on the bonds.

The Superannuation Fund will part-fund government superannuation from 2030.